Faculty Development & Learning Assessment

A Discussion on Plagiarism and Cheating

posted by Riley Quarles on 09/30/2010

Plagiarism usually falls into one of two primary categories; intentional and unintentional. Often it is simply the result of an improper citation and/or disorganized research practice. Reviewing the proper citation procedures for your discipline with your students as a part of the rubric for assessing their work may help to alleviate some of this confusion. (1)

Academic integrity has always been considered to be one of the cornerstones of higher education. But I wonder… Is it still a core value among the majority of today’s students? I will not pretend to fully understand the complexities of societal norms and behavior, but I do know that many of our very successful business people, powerful elected officials, and highly paid sports figures have built their careers upon markedly dishonest foundations. These folks are some of the highly visible role models of success in our society. Plagiarism and cheating on exams used to be considered deviant behavior. However their prevalence in the modern university setting causes me to question if societal values may be shifting. (2)

The underlying reasons why some students intentionally submit unoriginal work are complex. I have heard several instructors say that laziness is at the top of the list. Other factors include the student’s perceived lack of relevance of an assignment, the fear of requesting assistance, and unjust treatment by a professor as reasons or justifications for plagiarism.

By defining how an assignment fits into the larger context of their academic career and their lives, demonstrating openness for discussion, and interacting with students in a clear and consistent fashion may help to address these situations. (3) For a detailed list of why students cheat look here: http://www.pointloma.edu/TeachingandLearning/Faculty_Resources/Academic_Honesty/Reasons_Students_Cheat.htm

I have also heard the argument that “I need to use my limited time to present the material of my discipline. My students should have learned about and embraced academic honesty long before they get to my class.”
But have they? And are you more interested in the encouragement of good citizenry or the punishment of wrong doing? Do your writing assignments require drafts and revisions with associated deadlines? Do you integrate HSU’s online originality checker (Turnitin) into your student’s writing process?

I believe that students need to grasp the fundamental concept that plagiarism and cheating is wrong. Dishonesty in the classroom is a slippery slope that easily extends into relationships with loved ones and within the future workplace. Dishonesty degrades dignity and it has insidious consequences. An open and frank discussion of academic integrity near the beginning of the term will go a long ways towards honoring and reinforcing your honest students, and it just might help bring a few back that may have crossed the line in the past. Some institutions and/or instructors require an Academic Integrity Contract (AIC) to be signed by the students. A sample AIC can be found here: SampleContract.

Also, here is a link to a PowerPoint presentation that may help with your class discussion: http://www.pointloma.edu/TeachingandLearning/Faculty_Resources/Academic_Honesty/Reasons_Students_Cheat.htm

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Entry References

  1. Plagiarism in the Digital Age: Voices from the Front Lines, What’s Happening on College Campuses Today http://www.plagiarism.org/
  2. 3 Main Reasons Why Students Cheat, Neils, Gary, http://privateschool.about.com/cs/forteachers/a/cheating_2.htm
  3. Plagiarism 101 – How to Write Term Papers Without Being Sucked into the Black Hole http://library.albany.edu/usered/plagiarism/page3.html
  4. HSU’s Academic Honesty Policy, http://studentaffairs.humboldt.edu/judicial/academic_honesty.php