Forbidden Love, Stolen Ferrets

I came across this article first on NPR and then on Newsweek. The article, written by journalist Paul Tolme, details how he discovered that his 2005 article on ferrets had been plagiarized in (gasp!) a bodice-ripper romance. I had to know more. His hilarious account and rebuttal should not be missed. Find the article, “Move Over, Meerkat Manor,” on

What I find most astonishing is the blatant use of someone else’s writing. I had one student plagiarize a paragraph from a martial arts web site last week during the writing of his expository essay. Figuring out that he did plagiarize and finding where he took his information was simple. A quick Google search will bring the web site right up. However, since I am the student teacher grading the essays, I felt I should back up my suspicions and discovery with facts. I still don’t know what my mentor teacher will do. If it were my class, my first inclination would be to give the student a zero for the assignment and notify his parents. However, what if he really doesn’t know not to plagiarize someone else’s work? Can I turn this into a teachable moment for the rest of my students?

 I’m still considering my options.


2 Responses

  1. I had some plagiarism in a feather circle last week. I even warned the dude when he brought in a rough draft to write something on his own. He said it was sort of a mix between his lines and another song, but a quick Google showed he just copied down the lyrics to a country song and called them his own.

    It’s definitely a teachable moment for that student. The really, really difficult part is setting aside your English-major, writing-loving intolerance for plagiarism and leveling with the kid in a way that makes sense and doesn’t demean him. It’s too easy to just show him how mad you are about it; the real challenge is making plagiarism against his own personal moral code in the future. Oh, quandary!

  2. Hey,

    I also have caught students plagiarizing, copying each others work and having their parents write their assignments for them. I think the best thing to do is to confront the student and ask them directly whether or not its their work. Each time it has been hard, but I think students need a chance to confess before being seriously punished. I also wonder though if some of our professors have been right when they have said we should question assignments students can plagiarize. Yet, it seems as if students, as creative as they are, can always manage to find someone else’s work to turn in as their own. If you guys ever figure out the a good solution, let me know.

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