Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Causes and Prevention of Student Plagiarism

The issue of plagiarism is of great concern to many colleges and faculty members. Plagiarism entails the use of someone’s work without giving proper citation and credit to the author. It is a theft of intellectual property. Instructors can be preventative or punitive when dealing with plagiarism. According to Robert Insley in his publication Managing Plagiarism: A preventative Approach, there are a number of ways to deal with such issues. 

The author indicates that there are primarily three reasons why a student would plagiarize. This includes 1.) doing so without knowledge they are doing it; 2.) not managing their time well and rushing papers, and; 3.) taking the easy way out despite having time and knowledge. To prevent plagiarism requires an understanding of whether they are knowledgeable, not managing time, or really don’t care about plagiarism. 

The author discusses team projects and how they can be adjusted to avoid plagiarism. The same concepts apply to individual papers so they will be discussed from this vantage point. Consider the following preventative measures:

·         Not Knowing: Plagiarism can be a lack of awareness of proper citation and paraphrasing. Informing students about plagiarism and how to write effectively is a benefit. Handing out a sheet on the basics of citations, references and quotations with assignments can be beneficial. 

·         Time Management: Because time management can be a factor in plagiarism it is beneficial to have students turn in a draft copy of their work at a specified time before the paper is due. The draft ensure that they are making significant progress on their work and will not be forced to finish quickly. 

·         Easy Way: Such students should be informed about the process of losing one’s grade, damaging their academic potential, and how this limits their life goals. Informing such students helps them realize potential consequences. 


In my experience in teaching I have found instances where all three of these concepts are true. When a student isn’t aware they generally make some attempt to cite even though formatting and follow-up information is missing. This is an educational issue. The far majority of plagiarizers are people who have not managed their time well and simply browse the Internet seeking ways to get their work done on time. Only a few instances of complete paper copying have been experienced. In these cases, students knowingly and wittingly are short-circuiting the educational process. 

Time-management and knowledge are two of the fundamental weapons as it relates to plagiarism. Like in the working world, people have natural procrastination with only a few willing to be proactive on any project or issue. As students wait until the assignment is almost due they inevitably rush to get their work done. It is beneficial to discuss the importance of time management in classes and the benefit of this skill in the working world. I like to help students think of their college time as a practice for when these skills are going to be put to greater use. 

Insley, R. (2011). Managing plagiarism: a preventative approach. Business Communication Quarterly, 74 (2).

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