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

By Singh, Harmeet; Bennington, Ashley J. | Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, December 2012 | Go to article overview

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


Singh, Harmeet, Bennington, Ashley J., Academy of Educational Leadership Journal


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 'non-plagiarized' 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.

FACULTY ON THE FRONT LINE

A 2006 study of 147 faculty found that "faculty beliefs about the frequency of student academic misconduct were positively related to...prevention measures and efforts to challenge students suspected of misconduct (Hard, Conway, & Moran, 2006, p. 1061). Although examining a broader concept of academic misconduct than the single focus here on plagiarism, this study confirms an earlier finding (Koljatic & Sylva, 2002) of a significant relationship between faculty beliefs and behaviors.

Howard's (2007) analysis of the relationship between the internet and plagiarism explores the historic context of intertextuality. …

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