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Plagiarism Prevention through Education?

January 28, 2010

Scott Jaschik has an interesting article on Plagiarism Prevention at Inside Higher Ed:

Could student plagiarism actually be reduced? And could it be reduced not through fear of being caught, but through … education?

The evidence in a study released Monday suggests that the answer to both questions is Yes — which could be welcome news to faculty members who constantly complain about students who either don’t know what plagiarism is or don’t bother to follow the rules about the integrity of assignments they prepare.

While many instructors have reported anecdotal evidence of the success of various techniques they have used in a few courses, this study is based on a much larger cohort, including a control group. The study found that a relatively short Web tutorial about academic integrity and plagiarism can have a significant impact on whether students plagiarize, with the greatest gains (for integrity) coming among student groups that are statistically more likely to plagiarize — which are those with lesser academic credentials.

Read the rest of the article over at Inside Higher Ed.

On average I catch two students plagiarizing per class section per semester (works out to be about 8% of my students). I’m intrigued by the possibility that my children die for lack of knowledge. However, I’m not sure to what extent the practices used in this study will help my problem.

All of my students have had first year writing or the equivalency. They have already been taught by the university what plagiarism is. Even providing students with a refresher on the subject causes their eyes to glaze over. Rule fatigue becomes an issue.

Perhaps I’ll try to incorporate these ideas into my own web tutorial for the summer term (where plagiarism can be a real problem). But, I’m not seeing this as a plagiarism panacea.

  1. James Gregory permalink
    January 28, 2010 2:54 pm

    I caught a pair of papers one time, the two were identical to each other. It turns out that they were roommates, and when the original writer wasn’t around, the roommate edited the document to reflect his name and then turned it in as if it was his own work. He was hard-pressed for time and saw an easy way out. I am not sure that he was educated in plagiarism, but it seems the motivating factor was pressure to turn something in at all amidst a hectic time in his life. With such factors as this, I don’t know that education about plagiarism would resolve the situation, as said factors seem to bear an override switch.

    • February 1, 2010 10:18 pm

      I’ve had similar situations as well. External pressures and poor time management often lead to last-minute plagiarism.

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