Klepto Kyle: You emailed me the night before the paper is due. "I had a breakthrough and I'm very proud of my revision!" you wrote. Oh, goody, I thought. Cause the last one -- not so great. And you're right! This paper is much better. Of course, it also pops a nice round 90% on Students Are Lying Shits Dot Com, and tells me that it was submitted a month ago at South Chickenneck Community College. When I asked if you could explain this odd fact, you admitted that your friend from high school wrote a similar paper, but you just used some of his research. "I changed the thesis," you said.
Cheaty Sue: Ask.com is not a source you want to cut and paste answers from. I also have access to the internet, and I know how to use it.
Sociopathic Sam: You got away with it. I cannot prove that you didn't write this paper, but it's obvious to anyone with a modicum of understanding of English grammar that you didn't. One does not go from a string of simple sentences to a parallel sequence of compound-complex sentences in the matter of a page. But fine, you get away with it. Good luck on that.
Here's the deal: these stories aren't very funny. There's nothing amusing about Kyle, nothing funny about Sue. These are ordinary, rather generic stories, like every one else on this site has experienced dozens of time. But that's what gets me: why aren't these unusual? Why are they generic? Because we do this all the time.
Part of our job is trying to stop people from pretending to knowledge they don't have. And every time I succeed at that part of my job, I feel like shit. I feel betrayed, deeply disrespected, and insulted. It's all I can do to make eye contact with the cheaters after I catch them. And often, while explaining the sanctions, I'll catch myself shaking because I'm on the edge of shouting at them. Which, sadly, I have done a couple times. I'm not proud of that, but how *dare* they! They had a chance to tell me something cool they had learned, or show me something neat about the way their minds worked, and we could have a conversation about ideas which is one of the two or three things that really matter to me. And they pissed on it.
I find that a bit demoralizing. Some places online will tell us that the solution to plagiarism rests with us, that we need to create "cheat-proof" assignments, or "instill integrity," whatever that means. Other professors have come out against the whole idea of being a cop. They just let the cheaters go, and don't give a shit. I'm actually a little sympathetic to that approach, but I won't do it.
What do you do? How do you prevent, or failing that, deal with, plagiarism? And more importantly, how do you deal with the emotional toll that plagiarism exerts on you?
(And yes, the obvious answer is obvious: drink. But what else?)