Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Pharmacy Students' Ability to Identify Plagiarism after an Educational Intervention

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Pharmacy Students' Ability to Identify Plagiarism after an Educational Intervention

Article excerpt


Academic misconduct, including plagiarism, is an important issue across all disciplines, including healthcare. Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines plagiarism as "the act or instance of stealing or passing off the ideas or words of another as one's own." (1,2) Plagiarism can be further classified into several different types, including direct, mosaic, and self. Direct plagiarism involves the word-for-word copying of text without acknowledging the source. (3) Mosaic plagiarism can be defined as the taking of words, phrases, and/or ideas from a source with only a slight change of wording and without properly recognizing the source. Self-plagiarism can be defined as the dual or redundant use of one's own work without proper acknowledgement.

The rates of plagiarism in the health professions fields and health professions education are surprisingly high. (4-9) An evaluation of 198 second-year medical students who wrote an essay for a medical informatics course found that only 9% did not plagiarize any portion of their submission. The same evaluation revealed the median rate of plagiarism for all submitted assignments was 17%. (4) Additionally, a survey of 18 nursing schools reported that 1%-28% of nursing students engaged in behaviors that could be classified as plagiarism, including copying from written and Internet sources without citations, falsifying a bibliography, and turning in assignments completed by another person. (5) Another survey showed that 60% of nursing students admitted to copying ideas without giving credit to the original author and 57% of the students had copied word for word from a source without citation. (6) The incidence of plagiaristic behaviors in other health professions was not significantly different. Student perception of the severity of various types of plagiarism also affected outcomes, with more severe behaviors (as identified by students) reported less frequently. (5)

The problem of plagiarism extends beyond students in academia as cases of plagiarism have also been reported in pharmacy faculty member applications and medical fellowship applications. (7,8) In 1 study, 15% of the articles retracted in drug-therapy publications were cases classified as scientific misconduct by plagiarism. (9) There is a connection between unethical behavior during undergraduate training and unethical behavior in professional settings, indicating a need to address these issues early in student education. (10)

At the academic level, the reasons for why students plagiarize vary and may be intentional or unintentional. Students may not have a comprehensive understanding of plagiarism or methods to avoid plagiarism, such as proper note-taking or proofreading skills, or they may not understand the seriousness of plagiarizing. (11-15) In one survey of pharmacy students, most were aware of a school policy related to plagiarism, but they knew little about the content of the policy. Most of the pharmacy students found many behaviors acceptable that the survey authors considered unacceptable. Examples of these behaviors included inventing references when the student had forgotten to document the source, using someone else's words without referencing them properly, and including material downloaded from the Web in an assignment without including a reference. (16) Also, 71.9% of the pharmacy students in this study stated they would not report a classmate they suspected of plagiarism. (16) The data from this and other studies suggest that increased education about plagiarism and its consequences might help to deter it.

Research in undergraduate and graduate students outside of the health professions realm has shown some benefit to educational interventions deterring plagiarism. Marshall and colleagues found that participation in an interactive online seminar decreased the amount of plagiarism as detected by software. (17) In addition, a study by Dee and colleagues demonstrated that an educational assignment on plagiarism helped to decrease the occurrence of plagiarism in undergraduate students because of increased knowledge on the topic of plagiarism. …

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