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One of the more challenging aspects of our work as educators is how we develop students understanding of plagiarism. At the beginning of the year, you may have felt that you have appropriately outlined your expectations to your students in terms of plagiarism. You may even have called in the expert librarians to help run some of these sessions. Still some manage to slip through the net!

In this post, I look at what the recent evidence points to and how we can better help the students understand and engage in some of these issues, including the statistics around using plagiarism detection software. I will also include any useful resources both from an external and an internal perspective. Lastly you will also be able to take part in the plagiarism education week which can better support you and your students in defeating this plague.

What is plagiarism?

According to the plagiarismadvice.org plagiarism occurs when an author attempts to misrepresent as original, existing and unacknowledged material or ideas from another person,source or (in the case of self-plagiarism) their own previous work. The recent growth of essay writing services which entice students to pass off work as their own has added to the problem. This coupled with information on the web, that can be copied without fully attributing correctly may also add to the problem.

Why do students plagiarise?

A number of reasons exist which have been outlined more fully in a JISC document. To sum this up, students may suffer from a lack of time and understanding as well as pressure to improve on their marks. Along with that the importance/weighting attached to each module/course may also be a factor. In addition the amount of support provided to the students by the lecturer could also be a key factor (JISC, 2007).

How can we defeat the plagiarism plague?

Turnitin the company that provides plagiarism detection software claims that there has been a decline in serious plagiarism by UK students by 60% since 2005. Turnitin software is used by 98% of UK institutions including City, and the number of essays it screens has increased 50-fold since 2005, to more than 5 million in 2012 (Jump, 2013). Batane (2010) reported a 4.3% decrease in the amount of plagiarism in assignments after students were informed that their work would be screened by Turnitin, and 65% of students surveyed liked the idea of having Turnitin. Most important to note is that when Turnitin is used as a teaching tool, fewer cases of plagiarism had been reported and increased students’ understanding of academic integrity issues (Cheah & Bretag (2008).

What sorts of assessment strategies might we adopt to encourage original work in students?

As you can see from the picture on the left, there are many resources available at plagiarism advice. From a learning and teaching perspective, one might suggest that involving students in the academic process may be vital to avoid plagiarism. A helpful guide on Designing out plagiarism provides practical tips on how you might do that. For instance, when designing assessments, one of the tips that is provided here is to avoid the verbs ‘explain’ or ‘describe’ when setting assignments. Use: ‘justify’,’create’,’rank’,’interpret’,’analyse’,’invent’,’revise’ . By also asking students to relate the assignment to their own personal experience or current events can help them bring individuality as opposed to conformity. A second briefing paper included here also goes into detail on assessment strategies that encourage originality and has now become the blueprint for institutions that are seeking to eradicate plagiarism.

What sorts of internal resources might we provide for our students on good academic practice?

If you’d like to include resources in your teaching on plagiarism then there are two main resources that may be useful. Whilst these resources may be of help to your students, please do note that these should only be used as supplementary to any information you already provide.

As can be seen from the picture above, the library provide information that is helpful for students and staff. This includes videos and various other materials on note-taking, citing and referencing, quoting etc.This can be accessed on the city website.

The LDC have been part of a project known as studywell. This resource is also designed to provide ideas about plagiarism prevention and study skills. Although this resource isn’t being maintained as the library resource mentioned above, it might also be one to bookmark.

What else can I do as an educator?

April 22-26 is officially known as Plagiarism Education week. Turnitin have been running a series of webcasts with each day on a different theme. The webcasts are led by Professors and Lecturers from a range of Institutions across the world. The themes each day have centered on:

These webcasts have been recorded and would be worth watching to provide you with some further wisdom.To watch these recordings, please click here.

References

Batane, T. (2010). Turning to Turnitin to Fight Plagiarism among University Students. Educational Technology & Society, 13(2). Retrieved 8-10-10 from ifets.info/others/download_pdf.php?j_id=47&a_id=1036
Cheah, S. & Bretag, T. (2008, June). Making technology work for academic integrity in Malaysia. Paper presented at the 3rd International Plagiarism Conference. Retrieved 3-17-2009, from http://www.plagiarismconference.org/pages/conference-2008/conference-proceedings.php.
Text based on Chester, G. (2001) Plagiarism detection and prevention: final report on the JISC electronic plagiarism detection project. JISC. Available at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/uploaded_documents/plagiarism_final.pdf [Accessed 25.04.13]
Jump, P (2013)Turnitin is turning up fewer cases of plagiarism [available online] http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/turnitin-is-turning-up-fewer-cases-of-plagiarism/2002939.article [accessed on 23.04.13]
Lee, A. (2008) Designing out plagiarism: a brief guide for busy academics. [Online]  Available at: http://www2.surrey.ac.uk/cead/resources/documents/Designing_out_plagiarism.pdf [Accessed 25.04.13]
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