I'm a research assistant in an university.
I'm advising some students, in the capacity of co-advisor with another colleague, to write a work which is necessary for them to graduate and which will add points to the final marks they get.
They have sent the work in some time ago, but I didn't have time to read it until today.
I started reading it and was honestly quite poor: bold claims without citations, general statements over and over, the few papers that were cited were cited in too much details. Also some formal problems: inconsistency in citation style, quite a few typos, inconsistency in formatting and layout, quite elementary english (I'm not saying mine is good).
So I started to carefully review their work: commenting where citations needed to be inserted, telling them to insert them; commenting the out-of-scope parts, telling them they were out-of-scope; fixing the grammar now and then, planning in my mind a more general response where I would tell them how to improve and what was expected, for instance not to talk in details about a single paper but rather to express an overview about what the literature has said and done.
Suddenly the style changes drastically: the english is now perfect and scientific.
Since it's more than one student doing this work, I though that they had split the work among them, and the latter student was better than the former.
By continuing to read some other things don't square. The citation style is now consistent. As there are changes in the substance too: they now compare papers among one another, they tell a whole story by citing papers, the flow of the discourse is congruent with itself.
I thought that this new student was substantially better than the former, but then a new thought came into my mind, and I checked since well it can't harm to check.
They have "copied" whole paragraphs from published papers.
And by "copied" in double quotes I mean that they have changed some words, or added some useless specifications in parentheses, or changed the order of the words, so that the kindergarten teacher wouldn't realize the passage is copied.
I felt really angry and also physically ill, as I have spent quite few hours reading their thing. I also feel teased, duped and laughed at. I fell that what I'm doing has no sense anymore.
I don't know exactly what to do.
I sent an email to my colleague and to the professor. My colleague said that it's "common" for these things to happen and that we will "talk to" them at the next meeting (she used an expression which in my language means "talk to" but like in an angry and reprimanding way).
The professor has yet to answer.
I don't know if I'm still supposed to follow or advise them, and what my role would be consistent with the fact that I can't imagine seeing them again in the face, and honestly I'm not willing to help them anymore.