Academic journal article College Student Journal

Can Paraphrasing Practice Help Students Define Plagiarism?

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Can Paraphrasing Practice Help Students Define Plagiarism?

Article excerpt

Plagiarism is the new dirty word on campus, and college instructors are increasingly interested in teaching students how to prevent committing plagiarism. In this study, college students wrote definitions of plagiarism before and after 6 weeks of practice paraphrasing and citing original sources. Students' definitions of plagiarism were evaluated for content and inclusion of specific elements of plagiarism. Results indicated a significant increase in post-paraphrasing plagiarism definition scores compared with pre-paraphrasing definition scores. In particular, all students were likely to include the notion "taking someone else's words is plagiarism" in both their pre-paraphrasing and post-paraphrasing definitions. After paraphrasing practice, however, students were more likely to include two additional specific elements of plagiarism in their post-paraphrasing definitions (taking someone else's ideas is plagiarism and not giving credit is plagiarism). The importance of having students practice paraphrasing techniques, rather than merely teaching them definitions of plagiarism, is discussed. The methods used in this study could be easily adapted to virtually any course in which the instructor wishes to help students understand plagiarism.

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Plagiarism on college campuses is increasingly receiving attention from instructors and researchers, and "plagiarism" is the new dirty word on campus. A recent search of PSYCINFO using "plagiarism" yielded over 100 results, most in the last two decades. Many of the scholarly articles that have been devoted to the topic of plagiarism fall into one of the following categories: (a) Plagiarism as a professional ethics issue (e.g., May, Campbell, & Doyle, 2000), (b) unintentional plagiarism as a result of memory processes (e.g., Brown & Murphy, 1989), (c) plagiarism by using the Internet (e.g., Harris, 2002), (d) identifying students who are likely to plagiarize (e.g., Lester & Diekhoff, 2002), or (e) describing of frequency and reasons for plagiarism (e.g., Roig & DeTommaso, 1996).

For most college instructors, this last set of concerns is most pressing. By understanding how often and why plagiarism occurs, instructors are in a better position to take steps to prevent it from happening. Typically, their focus is students' lack of knowledge about what plagiarism is and how to avoid committing it. For example, Roig (1997) asked students to read a paragraph from a psychological journal article and then he presented to them various rewritten versions of the same paragraph. Afterward, Roig's participants completed a plagiarism knowledge survey. Although the various rewritten versions of the paragraph varied in the extent to which they plagiarized the original, Roig found that up to half of the participants did not detect plagiarism in these passages. Roig concluded that students may plagiarize because they do not understand how to paraphrase and cite correctly.

More recently Landau, Druen, and Arcuri (2002) used a similar method to survey students about their knowledge of plagiarism. They also presented to students original paragraphs and rewritten versions of the passages. After determining whether they thought the rewritten passages were plagiarized, students were given no feedback, feedback only, examples only, or feedback with examples. Feedback included answers to the questions on the plagiarism knowledge survey, while examples included a definition of plagiarism with plagiarized examples. Landau et al. (2002) found that giving students feedback, examples, or both significantly affected students' scores on the plagiarism knowledge survey, indicating an increase in their knowledge of plagiarism. The authors concluded that teaching students how to avoid plagiarism is important to helping them avoid academic dishonesty, but also cautioned that this increased knowledge of avoiding plagiarism may not extend to situations in which grading is a consideration. …

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