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How to Spot Plagiarism

While you shouldn’t necessarily read student writing with a cynical eye, it is your responsibility to be wary of academic cheating. Particular features of a student’s writing may tip you off to an instance of plagiarism:

  • Change of voice within work: Marked shifts in vocabulary, tone, or sentence structure within a given piece of writing can indicate purloined passages. Usually students will insert more sophisticated prose into their own work. 
  • Change of topic: Assigning pre-writing work has the benefit of your becoming familiar with a student’s approach to the assignment. A red flag should go up when the student turns in a radically different slant on the assignment.
  • Professional-sounding writing: A piece of writing that is “too good” or professional-sounding may be plagiarized. And it probably doesn’t correspond to the student’s writing you’ve read previously.
  • Student absence: Be suspicious when a student has not attended section meetings, lecture, or office hours, yet turns in high-quality work drawing on those discussions.

To which category of cheating does this example of student plagiarism belong?

The grapes of wrath written by John Steinbeck takes place in mid-1930s it deals mainly with the dust bowl during the Great Depression. By the mid-1930’s, the drought had crippled countless farm families, and the United States had fallen into the Great Depression. Many Dust Bowl farmers were forced to leave their land, since they were     unable to pay their mortgages or invest in the kinds of industrial equipment now needed     for commercial competition.

HINT: Prose improves dramatically after the first ill-written sentence ...


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