The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Taking plagiarists to new kind of traffic school

In most cases (for students), being caught as a plagiarist could mean receiving a failing grade on the plagiarized assignment, or even in the course as a whole.,”

At any school, plagiarism is seen as a very serious offense. Students are constantly warned against taking someone else's work as their own and are frequently reminded how to properly attribute information they did not write themselves.

In most cases, a student caught plagiarizing an assignment could receive a failing grade on the assignment, or even in the course as a whole. However, one college professor has developed a new program that may change that.

Meg Files, head of the English and journalism department at Pima Community College West Campus in Tucson, Ari. said she got the idea for Traffic School for Plagiarism after having a discussion with a colleague.

"(My colleague) had to go to traffic school after getting a ticket and said it actually changed her driving habits," Files said.

Based on the principle of traffic school changing the way a person drives, Files developed a five-step program that she said should take students five hours to complete that will re-teach them how to cite correctly.

The five steps include writing a paper about why they plagiarized, reading plagiarism case studies, writing a paragraph defining plagiarism, meeting with a tutor to discuss proper citation and meeting with a faculty member to discuss how to avoid plagiarizing again and what they have learned.

The program is currently available as an option to Pima students if they are caught plagiarizing.

"Participation is decided on an individual basis. Both the student and teacher have to agree that participation in the program is a reasonable option. In some cases, after completion of the program, the students will be given the opportunity to rewrite the offending paper," Files said.

Many colleges use Web sites like as a tool to ensure that students' work is original. John Barrie, creator of, said the Web site scans papers for unoriginal material and highlights it so instructors can easily determine if the student properly cited the material or plagiarized.

"It's up to teachers to make the judgment call," Barrie said.

There are many different reasons why students might plagiarize, but often, plagiarism is the result of a student being overwhelmed with work.

"It's the result of bad decisions because they've been under a lot of pressure and have to find better ways of dealing with that pressure," said Krista Ratcliffe, associate professor and director of the first-year English program at Marquette.

However, plagiarism is not always intentional.

"In a lot of cases it is a mistake," Barrie said. "It's up to instructors to teach students proper citation."

Files said she wants Traffic School for Plagiarism to make students aware of plagiarism and its effects.

"I really hope we'll help students learn the nature of true education and the importance of learning, critical thinking, exploring and developing their own ideas," Files said.

For students, unintentional plagiarism can be made into a valuable learning experience.

"I look at plagiarism as a teaching moment about correct citation, honesty and ethical behavior," Ratcliffe said.

Ratcliffe said Marquette's policy on plagiarism lists a variety of options for punishment. The action chosen depends on the nature of the offense and the instructor. University policy states that the instructor can choose to reprimand the student, request that the assignment be redone, reduce the assignment's grade, recommend that the student withdraw from the course or fail the student.

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