Plagiarism: Getting the Point Across

Heather Cox Richardson

Over the years, I’ve tried everything I can to warn students away from plagiarizing. I explain, cajole, and threaten. I even have a set performance attacking plagiarism in the middle of the semester (the Plagiarism Lecture ought to win me an acting award).

It appears those of us who are soldiers in the war
against plagiarism now have a new weapon in our arsenal (from the University Library at the University of Bergen, Norway):

(If captions don’t appear immediately, click the cc button on the toolbar.)

There are pieces of this video that may be dicey for a classroom, but it does offer two crucial pieces of evidence that support our cause. First, it provides obvious proof to a student that plagiarism is not just the crazy hang-up of his or her particular teacher. It’s clear that a lot of money and time went into the making of this video. And it shows that plagiarism is hated everywhere, not just at a student’s particular school.

The way the video presents plagiarism as unacceptable is not how I present it. My own main point is that it is a profound version of theft. Still, educators I respect emphasize what the video does: that a student who plagiarizes cheats him or herself.

And in the era of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, poking fun at the issue to make a serious point might just work.