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Plagiarism. Would you let the professor know?


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For my criminology class,  we had to analyze a crime show and talk about stereotypes, fears of crime, etc. I posted mine two days ago and today, someone posted a review that is strikingly similar to mine. It’s the cheap version, like when you read the back cover and make a book report out of it. It’s so obvious to me. Would you notify your professor? I have something in mind but I’m afraid to send it. What if I’m wrong? My family says no way am I wrong. There were no specific shows to choose so I feel like out of thousands of crime shows she just happened to pick the same one? 

So far: Hi Dr. xxxxx

I suspect that my discussion post was plagiarized by another student, xxxxx. The layout, word choices, and key points are strikingly similar. I would like to see what you think.

??? Or just let it go and trust he’ll figure it out?

Edited by AbcdeDooDah
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2 minutes ago, AbcdeDooDah said:

For my criminology class,  we had to analyze a crime show and talk about stereotypes, fears of crime, etc. I posted mine two days ago and today, someone posted a review that is strikingly similar to mine. It’s the cheap version, like when you read the back cover and make a book report out of it. It’s so obvious to me. Would you notify your professor? I have something in mind but I’m afraid to send it. What if I’m wrong? My family says no way am I wrong. There were no specific shows to choose so I feel like out of thousands of crime shows same just happened to pick the same one? 

So far: Hi Dr. xxxxx

I suspect that my discussion posit was plagiarized by another student, xxxxx. The layout, word choices, and key points are strikingly similar. I would like to see what you think.

??? Or just let it go and trust he’ll figure it out?

Does your have a time stamp on it? 

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17 minutes ago, AbcdeDooDah said:

Yes. It was two days ago. Her’s was today.

Then it should take care of itself.

As insurance, I'd make screenshots showing the timestamps, and I wouldn't throw away any original notes or notes from work in progress.  

 

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14 minutes ago, Halftime Hope said:

Then it should take care of itself.

As insurance, I'd make screenshots showing the timestamps, and I wouldn't throw away any original notes or notes from work in progress.  

 

Thanks. I will do that. 

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Is this a student discussion board that each student is posting to?  Are other students supposed to make comments about each students' posts?  How large of a class is it?  Do you think it is something that the professor will notice if you don't say anything?

 

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Check your school’s academic integrity policy and see if there’s a procedure you should follow.  
 

Absolutely keep your notes and any rough drafts or other proof of work-in-progress.

If you do contact your professor, don’t include the “I would like to see what you think” part. If he takes action with regard to the other student he can’t tell you about it.

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I'm a TA, I would appreciate a heads up if someone thought a student was plagarizing their work. My students do discussion boards some weeks and their responses are focused on a few select readings, so many end up sounding similiar by default. I have, however, caught students copying others work and passing it off as their own in other assignments based upon the discussion board. 

For an open ended assignment, too much similarity can be a red flag, but depending upon the size of class, the professor could miss that similarity if it wasn't run through Turnitin. 

I would send an email that notes the similiarity but leaves it to the professor to call it plagiarism. State facts. 

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23 minutes ago, Bootsie said:

Is this a student discussion board that each student is posting to?  Are other students supposed to make comments about each students' posts?  How large of a class is it?  Do you think it is something that the professor will notice if you don't say anything?

 

Yes, a discussion board where we are supposed to comment on each other's. There are 45ish in the class.

I would hope he would notice, it's pretty blatant, to me anyway.

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21 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

I'd let her know before she decides you both cheated by working together -- assuming this was supposed to be done individually, anyway. 

It's just a discussion post where we comment on other posts. 

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I would be tempted to post a comment on the student's post about "what did you think about..." touching on some part of the show that wasn't commented on in your review.  

As a professor, I take plagiarism seriously (and have taken disciplinary action in a number of cases).  From what you describe, it sounds as if it would be a difficult situation for the professor to do anything, unless the student copied word for word what you had done.  It is probably more of a situation in which the professor can "take notice" and be on the watch out more closely with that particular student.  It would be difficult for the professor to prove that the student did not watch the show; and I am assuming this assignment is a low stakes assignment.  If it is a student discussion board, I am doubtful that running it through Turn-it-in will flag the discussion as plagiarism.  

The professor probably will not be able to tell you of any steps taken due to privacy.  So, you might just want to "alert" the professor and say that you have concerns regarding the similarity.  Or, you might check and see if your university has a procedure for student reporting of suspected academic dishonesty and follow those procedures.   

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9 minutes ago, Bootsie said:

I would be tempted to post a comment on the student's post about "what did you think about..." touching on some part of the show that wasn't commented on in your review.  

As a professor, I take plagiarism seriously (and have taken disciplinary action in a number of cases).  From what you describe, it sounds as if it would be a difficult situation for the professor to do anything, unless the student copied word for word what you had done.  It is probably more of a situation in which the professor can "take notice" and be on the watch out more closely with that particular student.  It would be difficult for the professor to prove that the student did not watch the show; and I am assuming this assignment is a low stakes assignment.  If it is a student discussion board, I am doubtful that running it through Turn-it-in will flag the discussion as plagiarism.  

The professor probably will not be able to tell you of any steps taken due to privacy.  So, you might just want to "alert" the professor and say that you have concerns regarding the similarity.  Or, you might check and see if your university has a procedure for student reporting of suspected academic dishonesty and follow those procedures.   

I wish I was that brave to comment on her post, lol. I’ve composed lots of things in my head i want to say but I wont.

This is literally the first assignment and it’s pretty ballsy of her to do that. 

To add insult to injury, others are commenting on her post and not mine. 😑

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2 minutes ago, AbcdeDooDah said:

I wish I was that brave to comment on her post, lol. I’ve composed lots of things in my head i want to say but I wont.

This is literally the first assignment and it’s pretty ballsy of her to do that. 

To add insult to injury, others are commenting on her post and not mine. 😑

Is this a major class where you are likely to have the same students in a class over and over?  Is it a 100% online class?  

--This is one of the reasons I dislike discussion boards.  

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1 minute ago, Bootsie said:

Is this a major class where you are likely to have the same students in a class over and over?  Is it a 100% online class?  

--This is one of the reasons I dislike discussion boards.  

It is required for my major. I don’t know what her major is. This is my last semester there before graduating so I should not see her again. 

We are still only online here. There is an option for professors to set the discussion board as private until the student makes a post but one could probably get around that by posting one word to gain access and then editing after.

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I haven't used discussion boards in that way, but I hadn't thought about how a student could post one word and then edit 😞  There would probably be a trail for the professor to follow to see that.  In fact, now that I think about it, the professor can perhaps tell when the student read your post relative to when the student posted her own version (and the timing of any other posts the student read and commented on).  

Does the professor ever comment on the posts?  Does your grade depend at all on students responding to your posts?  If so, that opens up another door for your mentioning something to the professor--saying that since your posts are so similar you are concerned that classmates will respond to her comments and not yours if the are further down in a discussion board. 

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10 minutes ago, Bootsie said:

I haven't used discussion boards in that way, but I hadn't thought about how a student could post one word and then edit 😞  There would probably be a trail for the professor to follow to see that.  In fact, now that I think about it, the professor can perhaps tell when the student read your post relative to when the student posted her own version (and the timing of any other posts the student read and commented on).  

Does the professor ever comment on the posts?  Does your grade depend at all on students responding to your posts?  If so, that opens up another door for your mentioning something to the professor--saying that since your posts are so similar you are concerned that classmates will respond to her comments and not yours if the are further down in a discussion board. 

I bet they can see edit history. . .

This is our first discussion and so far the professor has not commented. Out grade is dependent on our comments on other posts so no worries there. 

 

Edited by AbcdeDooDah
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It can be hard to catch everything that happens in class.  I always appreciate it when students tell me about situations that they see.  I don't act just on their statements, so a student isn't going to 'get somebody in trouble' - I'll just watch the next few assignments and see if I see a pattern.  In your case, i'd write a quick note saying that you noticed that their assignment was very similar, but you don't know the student and you didn't work together, or something to that effect.  If the student similarly copied off of a different student every time, it might take a while for the teacher to notice, which might be the plan, or it could be a fluke, in which case nothing should come of it.  

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9 hours ago, AbcdeDooDah said:

 

We are still only online here. There is an option for professors to set the discussion board as private until the student makes a post but one could probably get around that by posting one word to gain access and then editing after.

Yes, that's true, and professors can probably see that in the analytics. But again, they have to have a reason to look. 

 

I agree with Clemsondana, that a professor will look for patterns of behavior from students. 

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10 hours ago, Bootsie said:

Is this a major class where you are likely to have the same students in a class over and over?  Is it a 100% online class?  

--This is one of the reasons I dislike discussion boards.  

Discussion boards are the bane of my graduate school existence.  Ours have a post first program where you can’t see others’ posts until you’ve also posted.  Trying to come up with comments on other posts is terrible.

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39 minutes ago, elegantlion said:

Yes, that's true, and professors can probably see that in the analytics. But again, they have to have a reason to look. 

 

I agree with Clemsondana, that a professor will look for patterns of behavior from students. 

I can't speak to that particular platform or discussion boards specifically, but in the platform that I use for co-op and online classes there are a lot of analytics that instructors can see...last logged on, total time, last edited/submitted, etc.  I don't check unless I already suspect a problem, but it has come in handy on the rare occasion when a student claims to be working really hard and I can tell their parent that they haven't logged in to the class in several weeks.  

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1 hour ago, Katy said:

I wouldn’t. Your post is supposed to address certain points, so it’s extremely unlikely to be original. 

She used several sentences that were almost exact copies of mine. Plus, its hard to believe out of how many thousands of crime dramas, she picked the same one I did.

Edited by AbcdeDooDah
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10 hours ago, AbcdeDooDah said:

 

This is our first discussion and so far the professor has not commented. 

 

I think sometimes with discussion boards the professors don't even read them -- they just check to see that students posted. 

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I've reported this sort of behavior three times now, most recently just last week.  Each time, I've given screen shots of the offending material alongside screen shots of the source.  

I agree with the above poster who said that the professors don't seem to read the discussion posts.  

You may want to look at the student code of conduct document for your school to see if it compels you to report academic misconduct.  Mine does. 

Edited by EKS
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Mine It starts out with the victim, an African-American woman, getting into an elevator and walking through a parking garage.

Her: The episode is about a woman of color walking through a parking garage. 

Mine: Next, we see a couple finding her body on the side of the road. She had been shot in the head and possibly sexually assaulted.

Her: Next, her body was found. It was clear that she was shot in the head and possibly sexually assaulted. 

Mine: Dogs lead them to the suspect’s house where he is playing basketball in his driveway while wearing jeans with a missing belt loop. He is arrested for the crime as a juvenile. 

Her: They arrive to where the suspect lives and they see him playing basketball. They noticed that the belt loop they found on the sense matched his. So, from there they arrested him for the murder and he was charged as a juvenile.

Mine: The episode touches on several points from the textbook that reinforce our fears about crime. 

Her: when you really analyze this whole episode, you see that the reinforcements about crimes, being portrayed very well. 

Mine: The first being a woman walking alone at night in a parking garage. We have been conditioned to know that this is not going to be a good situation.

Her: For example, this is a woman of color, who is walking to her car alone at night. You can tell the way it starts off this is not going to end good for her.

 

Then she obviously skimmed badly and used the same term as I did to describe another character but she thought it was about the suspect so it doesn’t make sense. This is a two paragraph assignment and these aren’t even all the examples.

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43 minutes ago, Mrs Tiggywinkle said:

Discussion boards are the bane of my graduate school existence.  Ours have a post first program where you can’t see others’ posts until you’ve also posted.  Trying to come up with comments on other posts is terrible.

I completely agree with this.  This was particularly bad when I was getting the master's in education.  The vast majority of folks in the program were apparently only there for the degree and were not engaged at all, so their discussion posts were uninspired at best and unintelligible at worst.  to find something, anything, to write about as a response, I would search for a phrase or sentence (it didn't have to be much) that I could riff off of, usually going far afield.  It seemed to work. 

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5 minutes ago, AbcdeDooDah said:

Then she obviously skimmed badly and used the same term as I did to describe another character but she thought it was about the suspect so it doesn’t make sense. This is a two paragraph assignment and these aren’t even all the examples.

I'm not sure I would report what you've posted here.  I agree that she probably used your post, and she did a bad job of it.  I might wait until she does it again (and she probably will).

The worst discussion assignments are those that are really only comprehension exercises and generate 25 responses that are minor variations of the same thing.  The best assignments are those that allow you to take the material being studied and run with it.

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23 minutes ago, AbcdeDooDah said:

Mine It starts out with the victim, an African-American woman, getting into an elevator and walking through a parking garage.

Her: The episode is about a woman of color walking through a parking garage. 

Mine: Next, we see a couple finding her body on the side of the road. She had been shot in the head and possibly sexually assaulted.

Her: Next, her body was found. It was clear that she was shot in the head and possibly sexually assaulted. 

Mine: Dogs lead them to the suspect’s house where he is playing basketball in his driveway while wearing jeans with a missing belt loop. He is arrested for the crime as a juvenile. 

Her: They arrive to where the suspect lives and they see him playing basketball. They noticed that the belt loop they found on the sense matched his. So, from there they arrested him for the murder and he was charged as a juvenile.

 

 

This was not noted in your post, so I think it's her original work. She's not a very good writer, but I don't think it's plagiarized. 

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2 minutes ago, hippymamato3 said:

This was not noted in your post, so I think it's her original work. She's not a very good writer, but I don't think it's plagiarized. 

I did have a sentence about the belt-loop being found at the scene, but missed it in the copy and paste

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3 minutes ago, AbcdeDooDah said:

I did have a sentence about the belt-loop being found at the scene, but missed it in the copy and paste

In that case, yeah, she probably didn't watch the show. It seems like an easy assignment, so it's annoying that she didn't even bother. I probably wouldn't report it because the poor writing and lack of detail speaks for itself though.

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2 minutes ago, hippymamato3 said:

This was not noted in your post, so I think it's her original work. She's not a very good writer, but I don't think it's plagiarized. 

I suspect she used AbcdeDooDah's post as a template to write her own.  

 

 

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11 minutes ago, hippymamato3 said:

The whole assignment seems to lend itself to that style, so that's not as concerning IMO.

I agree.  I hate discussion assignments like this.

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Given what you’ve posted, drop it. The instructor is extremely unlikely to try and pursue this over participation points and will likely resent you for making an issue. 

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If everybody watched the same video and the responses were that similar, I wouldn't think twice..sort of like how if I ask students to define 'genotype' and 'phenotype' there are only so many ways to do it so I tend to get a lot of nearly-identical answers.  

But, if the assignment was to watch any crime show and the responses were that similar, I'd be suspicious.  I also assign article reviews, where students can choose any article about science and write a paragraph or 2.  Occasionally 2 students will have the same article, usually something that has been in the news recently or is the top article in Sciencedirect the day before the review is due.  🙂  But, their reviews are never that identical.  In the situation you describe, I'd appreciate a note and just look and see if, over several assignments, the student always posted something similar to a previous poster.  If not, then it was a coincidence and I'd ignore it.  If so, I might pursue cheating (but some profs are hesitant to do so), or I might put a policy in place saying that you can't use the same show/video/article as what somebody else has already posted - post promptly, because once somebody else's post has been up for more than an hour, you can't use the same source material, or some such policy.  Or I'd have students post what source they planned to use, so that everybody had to choose something different (I do this when students present projects on ecosystems - first everybody signs up, which they do by posting their chosen topic).  

We had a student in college who was known for cheating, and she frustrated the daylights out of all of us, and as an instructor cheating is absolutely the worst part of my job.  I've caught more students cheating this year than in the previous 5 years combined, and friends who teach at colleges say that they're seeing the same thing.  

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I’d let the professor know. But I’d keep it simple, like you did. Remove the part about “what do you think” and change it to “I am aware that you cannot discuss this with me due to privacy. I’m simply alerting you.”

Edited by Garga
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1 hour ago, EKS said:

I completely agree with this.  This was particularly bad when I was getting the master's in education.  The vast majority of folks in the program were apparently only there for the degree and were not engaged at all, so their discussion posts were uninspired at best and unintelligible at worst.  to find something, anything, to write about as a response, I would search for a phrase or sentence (it didn't have to be much) that I could riff off of, usually going far afield.  It seemed to work. 

I’m finishing my M.Ed.

Let’s just say that the quality of work of many(not all) of my cohorts concerns me. 

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56 minutes ago, Katy said:

Given what you’ve posted, drop it. The instructor is extremely unlikely to try and pursue this over participation points and will likely resent you for making an issue. 

I agree. While annoying, I doubt you’re going to get anywhere and it’s going to start you off badly with the professor.

 

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The 'starting off badly' could go either way.  Some would find it annoying, I'm sure.  Some will ignore it.  Others might see 2 similar assignments and keep an eye on both students (I've had to do that) and be relieved to know to mostly watch one.  Others might be happy because they hadn't noticed but now they can be proactive about it...if you catch a student definitely cheating on something major late in the semester and the have to look back over the whole semester to see if there is a pattern or if the incident is a first offense..that is a pain and I'd be happy for anybody who saved me that trouble.  

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45 minutes ago, Clemsondana said:

The 'starting off badly' could go either way.  Some would find it annoying, I'm sure.  Some will ignore it.  Others might see 2 similar assignments and keep an eye on both students (I've had to do that) and be relieved to know to mostly watch one.  Others might be happy because they hadn't noticed but now they can be proactive about it...if you catch a student definitely cheating on something major late in the semester and the have to look back over the whole semester to see if there is a pattern or if the incident is a first offense..that is a pain and I'd be happy for anybody who saved me that trouble.  

Yeah, as someone who's taught at the college level, I would much rather know than not. I am human. I can't monitor everything. 

Edited by Not_a_Number
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3 hours ago, AbcdeDooDah said:

Mine It starts out with the victim, an African-American woman, getting into an elevator and walking through a parking garage.

Her: The episode is about a woman of color walking through a parking garage. 

Mine: Next, we see a couple finding her body on the side of the road. She had been shot in the head and possibly sexually assaulted.

Her: Next, her body was found. It was clear that she was shot in the head and possibly sexually assaulted. 

Mine: Dogs lead them to the suspect’s house where he is playing basketball in his driveway while wearing jeans with a missing belt loop. He is arrested for the crime as a juvenile. 

Her: They arrive to where the suspect lives and they see him playing basketball. They noticed that the belt loop they found on the sense matched his. So, from there they arrested him for the murder and he was charged as a juvenile.

Mine: The episode touches on several points from the textbook that reinforce our fears about crime. 

Her: when you really analyze this whole episode, you see that the reinforcements about crimes, being portrayed very well. 

Mine: The first being a woman walking alone at night in a parking garage. We have been conditioned to know that this is not going to be a good situation.

Her: For example, this is a woman of color, who is walking to her car alone at night. You can tell the way it starts off this is not going to end good for her.

 

Then she obviously skimmed badly and used the same term as I did to describe another character but she thought it was about the suspect so it doesn’t make sense. This is a two paragraph assignment and these aren’t even all the examples.

I would take that situation and post something like, "Hmm.  I watched the same show.  and I thought it was Character X who was rowdy (or whatever description) I notice that you think that it was Suspect who was rowdy.  Could you elaborate as to why you thought that?"  Or "That is an interesting perspective and a much different conclusion than I drew when I watched the film.  I didn't think that the suspect was rowdy... in fact, I found him not to be rowdy because A,B,C.  I found Character X to be much more rowdy than Suspect because D,E, and F."

I think from what you have provided that it would be very difficult for the professor to prove that student did not watch the same show.  Unless the students were specifically told that they could not watch a show that someone else watched, the student could have even read your review and then watched the show.  The facts of the show would be the same.  If there are certain terms and themes that you are using in class those are also the things you will see a lot of students write about.  

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14 hours ago, AbcdeDooDah said:

I wish I was that brave to comment on her post, lol. I’ve composed lots of things in my head i want to say but I wont.

This is literally the first assignment and it’s pretty ballsy of her to do that. 

To add insult to injury, others are commenting on her post and not mine. 😑

I have actually done this. My dd made me. The professor noticed. I have no idea if he ever did anything though.

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11 hours ago, Katy said:

Given what you’ve posted, drop it. The instructor is extremely unlikely to try and pursue this over participation points and will likely resent you for making an issue. 

Really? As a TA in a course that has a lot of participation points, I would want to know. Why would I resent a student who felt like their work was being copied? I'm more likely to resent students who can't put in the effort to do an assignment - even if it's just a discussion board. Unfortunately, dealing with things like this - which are annoying at the least/indicative of a student who probably shouldn't be in the class at the worst - are part of the job. 

Would I take this plagiarism up the ladder? Probably not, but I'd give the student a 0 on the assignment and a stern warning. Some semesters I spend more time dealing with students trying to game the system in various ways. It's a time suck, but it's part of the job. 

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30 minutes ago, elegantlion said:

Really? As a TA in a course that has a lot of participation points, I would want to know. Why would I resent a student who felt like their work was being copied? I'm more likely to resent students who can't put in the effort to do an assignment - even if it's just a discussion board. Unfortunately, dealing with things like this - which are annoying at the least/indicative of a student who probably shouldn't be in the class at the worst - are part of the job. 

Would I take this plagiarism up the ladder? Probably not, but I'd give the student a 0 on the assignment and a stern warning. Some semesters I spend more time dealing with students trying to game the system in various ways. It's a time suck, but it's part of the job. 

The ability to penalize the student (even with a 0 on this assignment) or issue a warning varies greatly from school to school.  I have taught at one school which I could do that and if the student had a problem with it, the student could appeal.  I taught at another school at which I was not able to make a decision that academic dishonesty had occurred; I had to document suspected academic dishonesty and the penalty that I recommended and then it was investigated by the university and I had to abide by their decision.  And I have worked at schools with a range within those extremes.

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