Plagiarism in Higher Education
Don’t miss your chance to earn better grades and be a better writer! It may be argued that although politicians do not necessarily write the words themselves, they endorse the words they use. But what if the words themselves are not original? In one instance, the presidential candidate Barack Obama was confronted by the fact that some of his speeches had taken material from Devil Patrick, the Massachusetts Governor.
Obama admitted he should have acknowledged his source: Education, Business and Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues Volvo. No. 3, 201 0 up. 166-177 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 1753-7983 DOI 10. 1108/1753798101 1070082 was on the stump. [Devil] had suggested that we use these lines and I thought they were good lines ] I’m sure I should have – didn’t this time 1 really don’t think this is too big of a deal (Obama cited in Whitefishes, 2008). Published by kind permission of HCI Press. Plagiarism has been defined as “the unacknowledged use of someone else’s work ] and passing it off as if it were one’s own” (Park, 2004, p.
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92) and it is interesting to speculate whether such an excuse would be accepted from a detent by an educational institution’s plagiarism committee. Accusations of plagiarism in politics have been made before, Of course, though the outcomes were often different, suggesting that a shift may be taking place in attitudes towards plagiarism in politics. In 1 987, another presidential hopeful was forced to abandon his ambitions for high office largely because he had plagiarisms a speech by the British politician Neil Chinook and because of “a serious plagiarism incident” in his law school years (Sabot, 1998).
Ironically, the candidate was none other than Joe Bidden, the man chosen by Obama to e his Vice President In politics today, it seems as though plagiarism no longer signals the end of a career. In contrast, students who are caught cheating or plagiarism can be subject to sanctions and consequences that are severely life impacting, which in the United Arab Emirates (AJAX) can include permanent exclusion from all tertiary education (see for example, Higher Colleges of Technology (HCI), 2008).
One question of fundamental concern that we must ask ourselves as tertiary-level educators is why college students, who have much less at stake, considerably less experience and knowledge and who do not use English as their first language, should be held to higher standards of responsibility in communication than those in the highest political offices? Yet, if we make allowances for students who are still learning to orientate themselves in academic discourse, what standards should be applied?
Plagiarism in a complex information society The concept of plagiarism is a relatively new cultural phenomenon. Greek philosophers regularly appropriated material from earlier works without compunction, and originality was considered less important than imitating, often orally, the retreat works of their predecessors (Lacked and Tangelo-Long, 2004, p. 37). All the way through the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the study Of rhetoric rather than written language was often the norm, with students required to give public speeches to assembled faculty.
Only the subsequent move towards written assignments brought with it new perceptions of student plagiarism (Simmons, 1999, p. 41). Around the same time, in the earlier part of the twentieth century, the formalization of citation styles from organizations such as the American Psychological Association marked a sire to standardize academic writing and provide a model for ethically quoting the work of others (Simmons, 1999, p. 42). With the rise of the information society and electronic media, another cultural shift seems to be underway.
There have been recent suggestions that plagiarism is becoming more prevalent, and much of the blame has been placed on “nearly universal access to the Internet” (Cannon and Neumann, 2002, p. 374). Park (2004, p. 293) refers to the ease of “copying I] in a digital world of computers, word processing, electronic sources and the Internet. ” However, the explosion of electronic sources of information has not just made copying easier, it has also made it much more central to our students’ cultural and social experiences.
Students going into tertiary education have grown up with the internet and are at home with downloading “free” films, sharing music and modifying and emailing all kinds of material taken from the web. They have developed highly skilled ways of conducting non-academic research using services such as search engines, social networking sites, bedposts, IRS feeds, discussion boards, etc. With Dealing with plagiarism 167 EBBS 168 hyperlinks allowing them to jump from site to site as though the internet were a single-unified source, and with copying and pasting a mainstay of interaction.
They take it for granted that a pop star such as will. I. Am can pick up and rework virtually the entire content of a political speech, and turn it into the award winning song and music video Yes we can, apparently without Beam’s knowledge or consent ((The) BBC News, 2008). They are not surprised when this video is then embedded in countless websites, with the lyrics of the song posted on music sites without any attribution of the original resource (see for example, Lyricists, n. D).
This intellectuality is a perfect example of the “postmodern, self-cannibalizing popular culture” (Bowman, 2004, p. 8) that our students now engage with on a daily basis. Students may well bring to the classroom very different ideas from their teachers about what constitutes fair use. Indeed, one study of 2,600 tertiary-level students in the AJAX found that just over 40 percent considered cutting and pasting from the internet as either trivial cheating or not cheating at all. The attitudes of AAU students are similar to those of other students around the world Crouched, 2009).
Some theorists have gone a step further and argue that as the new media become more interactive and collaborative, it calls into question the whole idea of a “creative, original, individual who, as an autonomous scholar, presents his/her work to the public in his/her own name” (Colons, 1995, p. 1). The multiple contributors to Wisped pages is a clear example of how a collaborative process undermines our sense of authorship. In addition, the notion of what constitutes “fair use” is changing quickly.
This is exemplified by the open source movement where material can e downloaded, modified, and shared with minimal and strictly controlled author’s rights (See for example, Open Source Initiative, n. D). As Blue (2009) notes, the “rules about intellectual property are in flux. ” Where does this leave educators? Has plagiarism become an irrelevant concept, too outdated in its definition to be of use in the production of educated professionals ready to take their place in our post-modern society?
Do we have to accept Johnny’s (2007) argument that in the digital age, writing an Original essay outside Of class for assessment purposes is no longer viable in its current form because f the ease of copying from the internet? Do we have to agree with him when he says such tasks are no longer even relevant because they fail to reflect the modern workplace? As Joy moons argues: My transfer from education to the world of business has reminded me just how important it is to be able to synthesize content from multiple sources, put structure around it and edit it into a coherent, single-voiced whole.
Students who are able to create convincing amalgamations have gained a valuable business skill. Unfortunately, most schools fail to recognize that any skills have been used at al, and an entire paper can be discarded because of a few lines repeated from another source without quotation marks. Plagiarism in education Plagiarism in education seems to operate under a very different set of rules from the pragmatic fields of politics or business and can create emotional responses that deploy highly charged metaphors such as The Plagiarism Plague (Bowman, 2004) or “Winning hearts and minds in war on plagiarism” (Chicks, 2008).
In education, plagiarism is “seen as a transgression against our common intellectual values, carrying justifiably bad consequences for those guilty of the practice” (Sherman, 2003). Why is it generally accepted that politicians can use ghostwriters, but that students cannot, even if the stakes for the students are much lower? The critical issue for education is that plagiarism “circumvents the learning process” (Spencer, 2004, p. 16). The process Of analyzing and synthesizing ideas, and reformulating them in writing, is seen as central to learning.
Only by ensuring that students struggle to assimilate material and develop their own voice do students go beyond surface information and develop higher order thinking skills. As Sherman (2003) notes: [.. .1 ownership over the words you use . Is really at the heart of the learning process. You can read a dozen books about the cold war, but if you can’t explain what you have learned to someone else in your own words, no real learning has taken place [.. And you will have made no progress whatsoever toward realizing the central goal of a liberal-arts education: the ability to think for yourself. 69 This struggle for intellectual development is not easy, which is precisely the reason that makes plagiarism attractive for some students. In most cases teachers are not concerned about literary theft, but that their students are kissing out on opportunities for learning because they are failing to engage with the material in a meaningful way. Plagiarism is therefore “denying them the opportunity to learn lessons, improve their study skills, and improve their knowledge and understanding” (Lancaster University, 2009, p. ). If plagiarism is especially serious in education because it is an obstacle to learning, then we should deal with instances of plagiarism primarily from an educational perspective rather than the punitive one. Students need to learn the importance of academic integrity and understand that it is not just a hoop to e jumped through, but is integral to intellectual and personal growth. Clearly this learning process cannot be instantaneous, and allowances should be made as students develop.
However, this does not mean that severe penalties should be removed from the process entirely as there will always be students who refuse or are unable to meet appropriate standards. Factors influencing the incidence of plagiarism Individual, pedagogical, and institutional factors can all influence the incidence of plagiarism. Students themselves can be impacted by a wide range of factors including their educational conditioning cultural background, motivation, language skill, peer pressure, gender, issues with time management, ability, and even the subject being studied (Rig, 1997).
If the tertiary experience is vastly different to students’ previous educational experience, the motivation for plagiarism again increases. In the AJAX, it is likely, for example, that the students’ primary and secondary schooling was characterized by rote learning and the quest for a single correct answer, non-transparent and poorly conceived assessment practices, and vast social inequities within the student base, and between dents and their Often socially and economically disadvantaged teachers.
Norms, expectations, and demands learned in this context can be difficult to dislodge in subsequent institutions which place a premium on the exploration of problems and solutions, independent and critical thinking skills, and academic integrity. If plagiarism is not defined or academic processes made explicit, then such students will find it impossible to reach the standards that are suddenly and (to them) inexplicably imposed on them.
Pedagogical approaches may also contribute to the prevalence of plagiarism. Current methodologies place much more emphasis on collaboration and group work, with a greater weight given to out-of-class projects and portfolios at the expense of formal exams. The result is that the line between collaboration and cheating during assessed tasks is blurred, and if this is not explicitly dealt with by assessors, it will inevitably 170 result in misunderstandings as to what is acceptable.
Also, students are more likely to justify cheating if the coursework Or assignments they Were given were too hard, poorly scaffold, or based on unreasonable expectations of heir abilities (Naiads, 2008), and plagiarism will be made easier if the assignments are not constructed carefully so that stock answers cannot be copied from the internet (Wood, 2004). However, the institutional context plays perhaps the most critical role. For example, unclear and uncommunicative institutional policies with vague definitions of plagiarism can affect the incidence of plagiarism, as can the application of those policies (McCabe et al. 2002). Some aspects of an organization may unwittingly encourage plagiarism. For example, in contrast to schools, tertiary education institutions in the I-JAW do not typically award top grades to large numbers of students, and there is evidence to suggest that students justify using ghostwriters in such an environment because they believe they deserve better grades (Crouched, 2009). An often overlooked but crucial aspect of deterring and detecting plagiarism is the application of institutional policies by teachers.
One survey of 800 American academics at 16 institutions found that 40 percent never reported incidents of plagiarism while a further 54 percent did so only seldom, even though the evidence suggested they must eve received plagiarisms work (McCabe, 1993 cited in Schneider, 1999). There are many reasons why teachers may be reluctant to report plagiarism. Teachers may feel the potential penalties for students are too high (Aura and Kruger, 2001 They may also be wary of making false accusations which potentially undermine their own professional status.
Some teachers object to taking on the role of detective or enforcer as it undermines the mentor- student relationship (Schneider, 1 999; Park, 2004) while others may not have the time to make an extra effort to uncover plagiarism and follow it up (Park, 004). It may also be that some teachers, especially teachers of content subjects where the focus is less on form and more on ideas, may not have sufficiently developed skills to detect plagiarism. Holland (2001) found that even teachers who detect plagiarism may use indirect feedback when dealing with plagiarism (for example, comments in the margins such as “Are these your own words? ) which can lead to miscommunication with the student about what is acceptable. With so many factors at play, the responsibilities of teachers must be clearly codified if any institutional initiative is to have any success. Plagiarism and SOL/FEEL English for speakers of other languages (SOL) and English as a foreign language (FEEL) contexts may be more prone to infringements of academic integrity because students lack the English skills to understand the coursework and so may feel that plagiarism offers the only solution (Holland, 2001; Lie, 2005).
Moreover, the cultural conditioning of English as a second language (SSL) and FEEL students has been cited as another contributing factor. Modern (1 995 cited in Lacked and Tangelo-Long. 2004, p. 38) suggests that some societies, including those in the Middle East, value memorization and imitation as the mark of an educated person” which may mean that plagiarism is viewed as being less significant. Lie (2005, p. 239) disagrees with the notion of cultural conditioning, however, claiming that “it is based on incorrect information and is presented often via unwarranted jumps in reasoning and conflation of separate issues. More pertinently, perhaps, she goes on to argue that: C.. Even if we concede that such cultural conditioning indeed exists to some extent, we still cannot say for sure that it is the main reason that SOL students plagiarism. There are many other factors that may motivate SOL students from many Al backgrounds to plagiarism, including a lack of adequate proficiency, lack of task specific writing skills, and of course, the urge to cheat (p. 239).
SOL students, then, whether or not cultural conditioning is accepted as an underlying factor in plagiarism, may still have greater motivation than their first language counterparts to take and use the ideas and words of others in their own assignments. Ironically, plagiarism by SOL students is also far more likely to be detected because of more prominent differences in engage level and tone between copied and original work. Degrees of plagiarism Intuitively, plagiarism varies in its severity in a way that cheating (e. . Using crib sheets or having someone else take a test for you) does not. It can consist of minor lapses, for example, when original material is poorly paraphrased but the source is acknowledged, through deliberately copying parts Of a text without citing the source, to submitting work from an online paper mill (Rig, 1997). Critical factors in determining the severity of the plagiarism include the intention behind the plagiarism (was it deliberate or accidental? , the amount of material that has been plagiarisms, the inclusion of the source in the list of references, the degree to which the plagiarisms material differs from the source (an indication at an attempt to paraphrase), the time the student has spent in tertiary education, and whether it is the first, second, or subsequent occurrence. Given the wide variation in the seriousness of plagiarism and the developmental process students must undergo to assimilate the norms of academic writing, it is clear that the appearance of plagiarisms material is not always a deliberate attempt to cheat.
For example, students are often poor at paraphrasing and may not be fully aware that this could be construed as plagiarism. Rig (1999) gave English-speaking undergraduate students a two-sentence paragraph to paraphrase and found that between 41 and 68 percent of the responses contained strings of at least five words or more copied from the original. These results clearly back up the claim that plagiarism may indicate a deficit in appropriate skills and not intentional academic dishonesty.
Towards an institutional response to plagiarism In many educational institutions, plagiarism is seen largely as a teacher/student problem. If plagiarism is detected, then the teacher makes a decision as to whether to escalate the case for possible punitive action. The plagiarism is seen either as morally wrong or as a “crime” ? the breaking of a rule that has inevitable consequences (Blue, 2009). Unfortunately, dealing with plagiarism in this way can result in decisions which are reactive, emotive, and which are made informally on an ad hoc basis, thus inviting inequity and inconsistency.
When the focus is directed towards punishment, there may be little maturation in terms of academic integrity for the student concerned, or for those who attach their classmate’s fate from the sidelines. Academic endeavourer must take place within an institutional culture that routinely recognizes and reinforces the value of academic integrity so that all stakeholders are obliged to proactively follow and uphold best practice in order to reduce the impact of the contributing factors discussed above.
This requires the establishment of an institutional response to plagiarism that is comprehensive, appropriate, fair, developmental, transparent, and educative. 171 Park (2004, p. 294) describes such an institutional framework for dealing with legalism that was developed by a working party at Lancaster University in consultation with staff and with reference to experience and the literature: The working party sought to move the plagiarism discourse beyond just detection and punishment and to situate and embed it in a cohesive framework that tackles the root causes as well as the symptoms of plagiarism as a family of behaviors. 72 The key elements underpinning this framework were consistency and transparency. These were ensured by the explicit codification of stakeholder responsibilities, procedures, and penalties. In order for such a framework to e implemented effectively, Park (2004, p. 296) noted that “all stakeholders within the institution must understand and appreciate why the framework is necessary and how it protects their own interests. A case study Park (2004, up. 295-9) nominated a number of central pillars that lend validity and effectiveness to any such institutional framework. These included transparency, ownership by stakeholders, student engagement, academic integrity, framing the initiative to ensure compatibility with the culture of the institution, focus on prevention and deterrence, and the supportive and developmental nature of the framework.
These pillars provide excellent reference points for the approach taken in one department in a college in the ALGAE and allow us to examine the viability and efficacy of such a framework for the local context. The Education Department at ABA Dhabi Women’s College (ADDS) has addressed its concerns with academic honesty in a concerted, collaborative, and multi-faceted fashion. As teacher educators, the faculty in this department are intent on producing future academics.
Much like politicians, words, information, and the generation of ideas are the very foundation of our professional lives, so we regard it as essential that the rules” of using these appropriately are disseminated, understood, and followed at all times by all of our students. To this end, we have established and adhere to a set of policies and practices at all levels that support and facilitate academic honesty.
Institutional/departmental level The HCI, Of which ADDS is only one of 16, institutionally mandates the prevention and sanctioning of plagiarism and related offences. Consequences of infringements of these rules are outlined in official policies, Student Handbooks (see for example, HCI, 2008), contracts signed by students at the enhancement of their studies, and reinforced by administrative staff and faculty at every student meeting and examination session held throughout the students academic career at HCI.
From these guidelines, the Education Division throughout the colleges has documented standards and procedures that address academic honesty in its assessment handbooks – one that is distributed to all education students and the other, more comprehensive and specific, that is used by all education faculty. This shared written documentation enables best practice in assessment to be disseminated and allowed, provides the underlying philosophy and approach for the division as a whole, and addresses academic honesty both directly and indirectly to better support student writing and make plagiarism a less viable or attractive option.
The assessment handbooks reflect the developmental curricular approach of the division as a whole, and so specify the type, nature, and expectations for assessments at each level to scaffold the students’ ability to produce increasingly sophisticated and original work. Ensuring that requirements are reasonable and documented minimizes the students’ need to seek help through illegitimate means. These handbooks are the basis of communication within the ADDS Education Department on all matters regarding assessment and have served to ensure a common approach and understanding.
Insights gained by instructors in their daily interactions with students and their submissions inevitably reveal general difficulties facing students, which are then examined in regular formal and informal meetings to brainstorm and implement further strategies that may be useful. The ongoing concern at faculty level with issues of academic honesty is mirrored in the systematic recycling of warnings, information, and explicit instructions o students. As a department, the theft or misappropriation of ideas and words has been, and continues to be, addressed as professionally offensive and inappropriate.
Initiatives suggested by Education Department faculty as well as colleagues in other departments and colleges are pursued vigorously. One recent example has been the provision of workshops by library staff on research skills and academic procedures. The plagiarism detection software, Turning, was originally adopted by the department as both a defense against plagiarism and a tool to help students protect themselves against accidental legalism. This proved to be very effective, but unfortunately access to this subsequently became unavailable.