Tag Archives: plagiarism

Preventing Plagiarism – A Different Kind of Assignment

Today I read a new Faculty Focus article by Maryellen Weimer, a Penn State emeritus professor, that reviewed an assignment two accounting instructors used to teach their students about plagiarism within their discipline. They acknowledged that proper citation was taught in a previous English composition course, and they described the challenge in this way: “Most of the time, students are taught about using the material of others and crediting those sources in some sort of composition course. Then students are expected to apply what they’ve learned when they prepare written materials in subsequent courses. McGown and Lightbody felt that
students needed instruction beyond the guidelines and that they needed repeated instruction in subsequent courses, especially those courses in the major. Not all fields handle the use of sources in the same way. Once students are in a major, they need to learn the particulars of
referencing for that field.”

The instructors did not want to use class time to teach plagiarism prevention, so they had their students complete an online workshop. Then, they had them apply the plagiarism workshop  content and develop their “knowledge of a particular accounting issue” through their new assignment. I encourage you to access the Faculty Focus issue and the McGown & Lightbody article it references, available online in the Penn State University Libraries, to learn more about the assignment and the creative way they had their students actively learning about proper citation in the accounting field.

I want to remind you of the plagiarism prevention resources available at Penn State. First, be sure to visit the Plagiarism Prevention Resources web site that includes a Plagiarism Tutorial for Students, an Instructor Guide on Plagiarism and Prevention, and links for faculty and students to plagiarism policy pages, guides, quizzes, citation guidelines, and basic copyright information. There are some nice plagiarism quizzes and exercises available too, including an iStudy module on Academic Integrity that can be integrated into ANGEL. The Plagiarism Quiz Bank is available here and could be used in ANGEL or as a printed quiz. Students can work with a writing tutor in the Learning Center. Penn State Harrisburg’s Academic Integrity Policy (C-7) is available online.

I wrote a previous post on “Why students cheat and what we can do about it” where I include a few strategies you might use to prevent plagiarism in your classes. Please contact me if you would like some assistance in including some of these resources in your course(s), or want to redesign an assignment to reduce its plagiarism potential.

Why students cheat and what we can do about it

I just read a feature article posted by the American Psychological Association providing some depressing statistics and, what I feel are, common insights into why students cheat. A survey of 40,000 U.S. high school students found that more than half have cheated on a test, 34% have done it more than twice, and 1/3 have used the internet to plagiarize. Additional surveys indicate that their behavior continues in college, and might even be associated with dishonesty later in life.

The article provided reasons on why students cheat: academic pressure to do well, low intrinsic motivation (learning)/high extrinsic motivation (grades), peer influence (cheating is contagious), and the need to stay competitive.

The real value of this article was in reading about a student-led effort at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), where a student petition is calling “on faculty to provide more education on academic integrity, state more explicitly the rules for academic integrity in the classroom and report all cheating when they see it.” At UCSD, “all freshmen must complete an online tutorial on academic integrity before they can register for their second-semester classes.” Professors are encouraged to spend time in the first week of classes to stress the importance of academic integrity and explain the behaviors that constitute cheating, including the consequences. UCSD’s academic integrity coordinator feels that a university-wide initiative such as theirs must include an assessment to first capture student and faculty attitudes and current behavior. It makes sense to understand the current state of affairs before developing a strategy to move forward. 

At Penn State Harrisburg, faculty invite the Learning Center’s writing specialist, Kathy Brode, to visit their classes and address plagiarism issues with their course writing assignments. Faculty also build in a process of writing with multiple milestones and deliverables that makes it more difficult to plagiarize. An increasing number of faculty also use Turnitin for plagiarism detection. When they have their students submit a draft of their writing assignment to Turnitin and allow them to see their own originality report, it often creates a teachable moment. Penn State has an iStudy module, titled Academic Integrity, Plagiarism, and Copyright, that they can import into their course in ANGEL for student use. The module “has been reviewed by Judicial Affairs and the Academic Integrity Committee,” and includes materials for the instructor and the students. I would love to see an initiative led by students and faculty, with strong administrative support, to build a stronger climate of academic integrity here, promoting ethics and professional integrity.