2 thoughts on “Plagiarism – time for a review?

  1. Plagiarism is a topic close to my heart (or thereabouts), as I work with students as they struggle with the twin demons of language learning (English is not their native tongue) and cultural and academic differences and expectations.

    In my experience the cultural element is VERY significant. I have had numerous students who I would characterise as both very motivated and very intelligent actually plagiarise essays that I have set them on the topic of plagiarism itself! For the benefit of these students I actually created a video lesson that was quite successful at getting the message across. I used a great little online (and app) program called Knowmia for this. You can see the video here, if you are intersted: http://www.knowmia.com/watch/lesson/29622

    Like you, I really think that a lot can be gained by students who work in groups and support each other in the completion of assignments. Sharing thoughts and helping each other find relevant resources is a wonderful way to facilitate and deepen our learning, just as many of the authors we are reading about would advocate (I’m thinking connectivism, connected learning, socio-cultural learning etc).

    The problem arises when students do not understand the expectations that the actual text and organisation of ideas, as presented by others, must be altered and ‘made your own’. As with so many other situations, people often do not think that abstract rules actually apply to them, and that bad things might actually happen if they do not take care.

    You mention that you have never felt the repercussions of plagiarism- and this makes me think of the many times my students have let their friends/girl/boyfriends ‘borrow’ their essay, and been horrified to discover that a) those friends have copied their essay wholesale and b) that this can have very serious consequences for them as well as for their friend.

    Despite these dangers, I think that students can be brought to understand these issues, and to work together effectively on similar or even the same essay topics without crossing the line into plagiarism.

    I entirely agree that international students with language issues to contend with have the hardest challenges when it comes to paraphrasing, and often have quite enormous financial and familial pressures on themselves to succeed.
    In this environment I think it is more important than ever for students to understand the importance of networked learning, to have others to support them and assist them, while at the same time comprehending both how and why they must avoid plagiarism.


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