I have some high school students submitting assignments where the entire paper is copied from another source. They cited every line. Is this plagiarism? I'm sure they are just being lazy, but they are a smart lazy. I can't find anything to back up my suspicions that they should get a 0 on this assignment. Thanks.

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    Isn't lazy enough? I would have a good laugh and say "no. Do it over". If they also give the source then it isn't plagiarism. But it isn't a good thing to do either. Since they spent little effort and you don't need to spend effort to mark it, just require them to start over. – Buffy Aug 30 '19 at 0:53
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    Make them do this one over, and add for future assignments that the grade will be based mainly on their own writing, with limited weight given to selection of quoted material to support their writing. – Patricia Shanahan Aug 30 '19 at 1:11
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    If every line is a citation, then what is their work? – Nick S Aug 30 '19 at 2:14
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    @NickS collating and curating the citations, apparently. Unfortunately that was probably not what the assignment was about. – Robert Columbia Aug 30 '19 at 2:33
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    If we edit the question to remove the words "high school," does that make the question on-topic? The gist of the question isn't specific to high school. It's unlikely, but still possible, that college students would behave in this manner. – shoover Aug 30 '19 at 15:33

This is not plagiarism, but poor work.

See this discussion on The Chronicle of Higher Education, where several instructors opined that this type of work was not plagiarism but deserved a low grade. One (polly_mer), stated (my emphasis),

I agree with Summers_off that the grade is low for lack of doing the work. My syllabi and assignment sheets now have a comment of "Multiple direct quotations or extensive paraphrasing with little original work will result in a low grade" because I have had too many properly cited assignments that were all cut-and-paste with practically no synthesis.

Plagiarism has an inherent gravamen of dishonesty - that the writer is deceiving the reader into thinking that the writing is the author's when it really isn't. Building a paper that is little more than a collection of quotations and paraphrases with corresponding citations isn't dishonest, it's just crappy work. Think of it like buying a car. If someone says that the car has been scrupulously maintained and has only 20,000 miles on it, but it actually has 125,000 and needs a new engine, that is dishonest, and quite likely leaves them open to legal liability for fraud. If someone tells you that the car they are selling is a hunk of rust and oil, then it's a literal hunk of rust and oil that you aren't going to pay that much for, are you? So, the student gets what they deserve - a low grade for low-quality work.

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    Upvoted for the comparison with the car. I'll keep it in mind while discussing that matter. – Benoit Aug 30 '19 at 14:12
  • pmf----this is anything but a 'cookie cutter' assignment. Students are asked to research an organism of their choice with guidelines to follow (ex. discussion of anatomy, reproduction,evolutionary history, etc.) – Lori Aug 31 '19 at 1:06

I’m guessing that the criteria sheet that you’re using has language that says something like “synthesises and analyses multiple data sources into a coherent, logical argument”. If they just quote and cite a bunch of sources without writing anything of their own, they’re not doing any analysis or synthesis, and you can fairly mark them down as a failing grade on that aspect of the criteria sheet (and likely a number of other aspects of their criteria sheet, too).

It wouldn’t be plagiarism or academic dishonesty, though.


I used to have this issue.

I dealt with it by making the marking scheme cover discussion and relevant conclusions.

Once they got to grips with comments like, "good source, but how does it affect your conclusion?" then it tended to sort the issue.

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