This posting is an updated version of a post from November 2016: Writing Class: Dealing with Plagiarism (Don’t Take It Personally)
In October 2016, Tiffany Martínez, a Latina student at Suffolk University in Boston, was accused of plagiarism by her sociology professor in front of the entire class. Huffington Post plagiarism story What caused him to be suspicious? The word “hence.” On her paper, he circled the place where she had written the word “hence” and wrote in the margin, “This is not your word.”
In my many years as an ESL instructor, I’ve witnessed instructors over-reacting in suspected plagiarism situations. It seems as if those instructors were taking it personally, feeling like they were being disrespected. Too often instructors seem to see it as a “gotcha” opportunity.
Plagiarism Learning Opportunities
Unless there is proof, the instructor shouldn’t accuse the student. It would be more damaging to falsely accuse a students of plagiarizing who had worked hard than to “let” a students who actually plagiarized slip by. If the student actually plagiarized, and the instructor has proof, it can be viewed as a learning opportunity.