Faculty on the Frontline: Predicting Faculty Intentions to Address College Student Plagiarism

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

What are faculty beliefs about their role in addressing student plagiarism? This study was conducted to identify how the faculty at a doctoral/research university (DRU) saw their role in order to have a starting point for establishing a university-wide policy and set of procedures. The results of the survey indicate that faculty members who think punishment is an apt course for both intentional and unintentional plagiarism are more likely to directly address student plagiarism. Faculty members who take an all-encompassing approach to plagiarism by expecting students to credit resources for all class work intend to take a more formal course of dealing with plagiarism by reporting it to the administration.

INTRODUCTION

There are over 7 million results from a Google search today on the term "plagiarism." There have been hundreds of news media and academic articles written about college students and cheating (Perry 2010). The claims that cheating is increasing - and specifically plagiarism - are based on anecdotal evidence (Perry 2010; Park, 2003). However there are strong arguments that the Internet is contributing to the increase in cases of plagiarism in higher education including distance education (Decoo, 2002, Kennedy, Nowak, Raghuraman, Thomas, & David, 2000). McKenzie (1998) puts it bluntly, "The New Plagiarism may be worse than the old because students now wield an Electronic Shovel that makes it possible to find and save huge chunks of information with little reading, effort or originality." To further complicate the issue, many scholars argue that the issues of plagiarism and originality are historically mercurial and impossible to define. (Freeman, 1998, Campbell, 2007).

Studies indicate that there are many different causes for student plagiarism (Perry, 2010; Park 2003). The most common causes found in the literature are articulated by Williams (2007) who suggests that students plagiarize because they are

A. Deceitful and trying to put one over on their teachers

B. Lazy and trying to get by with the least amount of work possible

C. Confused about how to use and credit other sources of information

D. Struggling to write with new information and new genres

E. All of the above

In addition, there are also several types of plagiarism identified in the literature (Park, 2003). There are several variations on using others' materials as one's own: buying a paper, copying a paper, and using another student's work. Then there are cases where students have other do the work and submit it as their own. The obvious copy and paste plagiarism aside, the identification of plagiarism often depends on methods faculty use in identifying plagiarism. One study found that students' writing was sometimes considered as 'plagiarized' or 'nonplagiarized' based on professors' own practices of writing and particularly paraphrasing (Roig, 2001). A five-year study using the software Turnitin.com to identify plagiarism acknowledges a major limitation in the fact that the different graders used their own judgments in evaluating the originality reports (Walker, 2010).

With the provost's goal to establish clear and consistent policies and processes for handling suspected cases of plagiarism, the first challenge is defining plagiarism. Although that issue is beyond the scope of this paper, it is worth noting a university-wide definition of plagiarism may be challenging. One psychology department found how difficult it is to reach agreement on the definition of plagiarism, even within a single department (Sutherland-Smith, 2005)

Institutional processes to address plagiarism can get bogged down with trivial cases (Decoo, 2002). In addition, institutions and faculty have concerns about legal battles. Decoo (2002) argues that when plagiarism cases are addressed, the more serious offenses often cause devastating effects on the institution, the offender, and the faculty member who charges plagiarism. …