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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Plagiarism in the UK
Where ignorance is an acceptable excuse?

A recent report in the UK says there are many phenomena at work to explain the rampant increase in plagiarism. Here are two that struck me:

  1. "Many studies show that the bulk of plagiarism can be attributed to students who do not understand academic requirements
  2. "It may be more common in very large classes. If these students enter programmes where the ‘rules of the game’ are unclear, they might continue to use tried and tested approaches and thereby, inadvertently, plagiarise. The number of students falling into this category will grow as student cohorts become more diverse due to widening participation, increasing numbers of international students and greater use of different teaching modes (eg distance learning, work-based learning)."

What a bunch of nonsense.

I have heard that first excuse several times -- "I didn't know I couldn't do that," and been dismayed that sometimes administrators have accepted this excuse and reduced the punishment. If people cannot understand the rules involving plagiarism, they should never have been admitted to, and deserve to be expelled from, university.

And to hypothesize that students plagiarize because they "continue to use tried and tested approaches and thereby, inadvertently, plagiarise" doesn't say much for what is being taught in secondary schools, does it?

But maybe there are some students from different cultures where educational institutions don't have such proscriptions against plagiarism; is it possible that such students find it difficult to adjust to the Anglo norms. I would want to be very careful about suggesting this, but if so, I would still want to hold them to the same standards as we hold all others to.

The assinine recommendations of this report will only create more bureaucracy:

Actions and Resources

  • Establish the culture and overall values, placing academic issues at the centre of the discussions and any changes
  • Appoint a named person responsible for ensuring the institution is dealing effectively with student plagiarism
  • Ensure policies and procedures are appropriate to the current situation
  • Require systems for keeping records of all incidences and what action has been taken; identify the person or people responsible for monitoring and reviewing data; identify how and where the resulting information will be discussed
  • Take steps to improve detection rates, including access to electronic detection tools
  • Create communication systems that allow consultation, discussion and dissemination of information

What a typical pile of drivel.

This report has been summarized by the BBC [thanks to BF fo the pointer].

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