Talk:Wikimedia Blog/Drafts/How to make a Wikipedian angry

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Feedback from SandyGeorgia[edit]

A couple of things that fall in the category of "let's not miss a chance to educate":

  1. One of the reasons student plagiarism is so infuriating is that students often have journal or textbook access that "established" editors might not have, and it takes us tons of time to track down and detect the plagiarism.
  2. Followup to Point 1, it would take the profs and course TAs far less time to track it down, since they have access to the sources.
  3. Followup to Points 1 and 2, in contrast to other (non-student) editors, there is someone besides the regular editor who should be checking for student plagiarism, and that is the professor. In the case of non-student editors, regular editors are just "doing their job". In the case of students, we are doing the prof's job, and we didn't sign up for that.

I would be thrilled if you could find a way to work something along these lines into the piece and not miss the chance to educate.

I still don't believe the overall rates of plagiarism the study found, much of it is not detectable by the study means, but that doesn't concern me as much as the need to get the message out so that established editors won't be so burdened. And, there would be a lot less angry Wikipedians if this piece mentioned that the study methodology was not able to detect common sources of student plagiarism (sources behind paywalls and textbooks). We know student plagiarism is higher, and that students have access to textbooks that we can't check without expending a great deal of effort, and therein lies the justifiable anger that the profs aren't doing it, and the WMF isn't highlighting the problem. Best, SandyGeorgia (talk) 18:58, 6 November 2013 (UTC)

Thanks Sandy. The intro uses the 'make a Wikipedian angry' bit to frame the topic, but the post is not really aimed at going into detail about how frustrating different types of plagiarism are to actually deal with.
I added a bit in the part about caveats to explicit note the possibility that students use sources in general that are less likely to be caught by the checker. There were certainly at least some textbooks and paywalled sources that did turn up in this study. Obviously the textbooks and other sources that have never been digitized will not have turned. What else slipped through is a big unknown. My intuition (which I don't presume is any more than that), based on having looked through both the plagiarism instances from this study and a whole lot of student work across many disciplines over the last few years, is that:
  • students user a higher proportion of paywalled sources (which in itself is probably a good thing... they have access to reliable sources that most editors do not)
  • students are not much more likely plagiarize from paywalled sources than from web sources, and the case of the plagiarist intentionally using hard-to-find sources to avoid being caught is rare
  • students writing about medicine and psychology are particularly likely to rely on textbooks, but this is much less the case in most disciplines, where textbooks are less central. (Compared to medicine and psychology, the textbook topics in chemistry, math and physics tend to be more developed, and we don't have many classes doing Wikipedia assignments in those areas anyway.)
I would not discount the idea that the results of this research might have tilted the scales significantly in favor of student editors in general because of source type searchability. But I'm certainly not convinced that it's case, and it will take more than anecdotes from biomedical topic areas and worst-in-class examples to convince me. I do think education projects in medicine and psychology have been more disruptive than in other topic areas. You MED folks have been burned too often and too badly. As I've suggested before, putting together specific supplemental training modules for instructors and students in those areas might be an effective way to mitigate that by going into detail about some of the common problems that have often happened before with those subjects. If I had the time, I would do this myself, but I've got a lot of projects on my plate and that's a fairly narrow audience (and I don't edit in those topic areas enough to do it authoritatively). But I can definitely help integrate it into the trainings if others draft the content.--Sage Ross (WMF) (talk) 15:25, 7 November 2013 (UTC)
  • students user a higher proportion of paywalled sources (which in itself is probably a good thing... they have access to reliable sources that most editors do not) ... not necessarily a good thing, relative to WP:MEDRS. It often means they have more access to primary sources, which they use incorrectly.
I do appreciate that you recognize that we've been burned often and badly ... there might be less angry Wikipedians if you could work in some mention of Colin's analysis. I alternate between being angry beyond words at how this program has taken away my pleasure in editing, and disgusted and demoralized enough to just quit. The insult is made worse by the fact that a professor approached me in real life, wanting to get in on this Wikipedia free TA band wagon ... so I know the truth is not getting traction. Best regards, SandyGeorgia (talk) 16:34, 8 November 2013 (UTC)


Thanks for pinging me on this. I like the blogpost. I'd only add that there is much still to be explored on this topic. Personally, I am not convinced (unlike Sandy, above) that student plagiarism is higher than that of other groups, though on the other hand I'm not fully persuaded that it isn't. I do think that (in Educational Assignments) it depends a lot on the type of task that students are asked to accomplish: those in which students are asked to "add a fact" to an article of their choice, for instance, are more likely to give rise to plagiarism... for much the same reasons, I'd add, as Wikipedia's DYK project is also a particular touchstone for the problem. But as I've said before, I welcome this research (limits and all). And let me again put out the suggestion that the WEF or WMF or someone should organize some kind of "plagiarism summit" to think about this key issue for both Wikipedia and academia. --Jbmurray (talk) 22:25, 6 November 2013 (UTC)

I've added a bit to emphasize your point that there's much we don't know. (For what it's worth, I like the idea of a plagiarism summit, and I hope to be able to do some better research on plagiarism at some point, or at least help others who are doing it.)--Sage Ross (WMF) (talk) 15:32, 7 November 2013 (UTC)