Developing Students' Awareness of Plagiarism: Crisis and Opportunities

Article excerpt

Background Information

In the past several years, the faculty and administration at the C. W. Post Campus of Long Island University have looked to the C. W. Post Campus B. Davis Schwartz Memorial Library for assistance and leadership in grappling with issues related to student plagiarism. Having done extensive work on plagiarism, I was selected by the Dean of Libraries to function as the Coordinator of Plagiarism Activities, charged with providing campus-wide support to faculty and students on these issues.

Previously, I collaborated with the director of the Faculty Technology Resource Center (an office established by the campus Information Technology Department to assist faculty with integrating technology into the classroom) to offer a plagiarism workshop for faculty at Long Island University's C. W. Post Campus and satellite campuses in Brooklyn and Southampton, New York.

Recognizing the Internet as the principal venue, one that is fast, easy, and satisfying in successfully accessing information on almost any imaginable topic, I offer customized seminars to faculty each semester on the prevention and detection of plagiarism to give them a further advantage when reading and reviewing student papers and projects. Similar classes, entitled Plagiarism Awareness Workshops, are presented to students in a variety of ways: by special arrangement in the classrooms, during freshman orientation, and by incorporating plagiarism issues into the Library Instruction program.

The authoring software PowerPoint, which is introductory, informational, and representational, is presented in the students' Plagiarism Awareness session. Clear examples of reputed plagiarism are included, as well as tips on how to avoid it. In addition, Campus academic misconduct policies and repercussions are highlighted.

Text from C. W. Post's Campus Ethos Statement is used in this session to conduct an online, interactive lesson that depicts scenarios on how students might plagiarize unintentionally. Examples include different versions of paraphrases, quotes, and citations that students are asked to compare, and then determine and substantiate whether or not specific phrases have been plagiarized or used correctly.

These innovative exercises always seem to capture the attention of students more than the preceding PowerPoint lecture. Described as Millennial students (formerly Generation X and Y) by Holliday and Li (2004), students today "tend to be visual learners and multitaskers and get bored quickly" (p. 357) and have never experienced learning without using technology as a tool. This new lesson seems to challenge them, stimulates class discussion, and gives rise to thought-provoking questions on writing research papers. The sessions then end on a high note, with a positive spin on an otherwise dry topic of little interest to this group of digital learners.

Purpose of the Study

Relevant articles, books, and media, as well as workshops and conferences, have revealed that the rise of plagiarism can be attributed to many factors, not the least of which is the Internet. How much plagiarism is unintentional and what can be done about it is a large part of this conversation. This study examines students' understanding of plagiarism as it relates to their ability to write research papers.

Literature Review

In June 2005, based on data collected from a survey that involved about 50,000 undergraduates from more than 60 colleges, McCabe (2006) of the Center for Academic Integrity (CAI) related that "levels of cheating and plagiarism remain high." In April of 2006, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that 37 graduate students studying mechanical engineering at Ohio University (ranked in the top 50 public national universities in the United States by U. S. News & World Report) plagiarized their theses and dissertations. Another plagiarism scandal involved Kaavya Viswanathan, a Harvard University sophomore. …