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Postby ScienceRocks03 » Thu Oct 13, 2011 4:24 pm

science Buddies - Plagiarism is always such a concern when science project time rolls around. Are there tips you can suggest to help with this so that students (and their families) better understand the issue and so that we (as teachers) can feel more confident that our students are doing their own work?


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Re: Plagiarism

Postby amyc » Thu Oct 13, 2011 10:40 pm

Hi ScienceRocks03 - Plagiarism is something with which we, too, are always concerned. No amount of plagiarism is okay, and you are right that explaining to students what plagiarism is -- and what it looks like when it's very easy to pull up search materials that can be copied and pasted in place without attribution -- is a crucial step. We have resources and samples on the Science Buddies site for writing bibliographies. We also offer suggestions for helping to cover plagiarism here: ... plagiarism

Many teachers spot-check student titles or key phrases from reports in a search engine to help ensure original work.

One of the benefits of having students work with Science Buddies Project Ideas is that our projects do not provide the "answers" for students. In order to complete the project, answer the question, and prove or disprove a hypothesis (that the student has formulated), the Experimental Procedure needs to be actively followed. So the student has to "do" the experiment to complete the assignment. Teachers who have classes use Science Buddies Project Ideas are also able to quickly reference the Project Ideas and look through the introductory and background materials to ensure student reports are original.

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Re: Plagiarism

Postby MelissaB » Fri Oct 14, 2011 6:13 am

Unfortunately, teachers at all levels have to struggle with this question. I occasionally have good luck by describing what happens to scientists in the real world when they plagiarize/cheat (including that it lowers the public's estimation of scientists as a whole). Also, I ask them how they would feel if I took the paper they turned in, took their name off of it, and used it as an example of a bad paper in future years--not exactly plagiarism, but as close as you can get to 'stealing' their work. It helps them understand that taking things without permission is not good and that it does hurt someone. So many of them see plagiarism as a victimless crime, I think.

I don't know if that helps--all of my other strategies are geared toward college students (e.g. 'you will fail my class and be reported to the dean if you plagiarize').

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Re: Plagiarism

Postby kalimkhan0900 » Fri Nov 28, 2014 9:03 pm

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Re: Plagiarism

Postby bfinio » Mon Dec 01, 2014 1:48 pm

Hi ScienceRocks03 -

As Amy said, one of the benefits of our projects is that they don't "give away the answer". However, in judging several science fairs I have definitely noticed plagiarism of Science Buddies reference material being an issue, where students will directly copy and paste text or images from the Background tab of a project for their poster board. For example, I saw a student who did the Art Bot project (which I wrote, so I recognized it right away - but the other judges in my group would have had no idea):

He built his own robot (which he was very proud of), but his posterboard was pretty much a copy-paste of the project text and images.

Most of the time, this seemed like a lack of understanding on the part of the students, and not any malicious intent or "stealing." If I asked them if they had any help or where they got the idea for the project, most would readily answer "There's this website called Science Buddies..." - they didn't try to pass it off as their own work. It just seemed like either (a) they didn't know that copying and pasting isn't OK, or (b) even if they paraphrased, they still needed to cite their sources on their display board or in their report. So, the student in my example might not have felt that he did anything wrong, because he still built his own robot (as opposed to just stealing pictures of a robot someone else built, which is definitely "cheating").

I'm not sure if I have a direct solution (or if anyone else does), but here are a couple pointers, for what they're worth:

- We've added a "Cite This Page" section at the bottom of the Summary tab of each project, hopefully making it easier for students to cite our projects when appropriate. Example:

We have a few projects that are extremely popular and tend to pop up multiple times in some science fairs. This may depend on how heavily Science Buddies is used in your school district, but you could learn to keep an eye out for the perennial favorites and make sure they're cited properly. For example, "Electrolyte Challenge" is extremely popular:

Hope that helps a little bit!


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