Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Encouraging Faculty Reporting of Plagiarism: Implications for Administrators

Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Encouraging Faculty Reporting of Plagiarism: Implications for Administrators

Article excerpt

This study investigated faculty experiences of plagiarism. Participants were drawn from three social science listservs, and completed an on-line survey regarding their knowledge of institutional policies on plagiarism and their experiences with administrators when reporting it. Findings revealed that most faculty members knew of institutional plagiarism policies, and that reporting was most often done through a chairperson. Faculty members who reported plagiarism to their chairs, deans, and judicial boards mostly felt supported afterward. Significant differences by age and rank were found in reporting. Implications for practice include policy buy-in from all stakeholders and addressing issues related to reporting by younger, untenured faculty members.

Plagiarism is a longstanding problem in higher education, and faculty and administrators continue to struggle with identifying appropriate consequences for it pevlin, 2006; Park, 2004; Robinson-Zanartu et al., 2005). Consensus has not been reached on specific definitions of plagiarism (e.g., Bennett, Behrendt, & Boothby, in press), and many institutions group a variety of cheating-like behaviors together under the larger concept of academic integrity. Available statistics for incidences of plagiarism vary by discipline, undergraduate/ graduate status, and reporting method (e.g., self-report, institutional report), but researchers agree that it is both common and widespread (Chao, Wilhelm, & Neureuther, 2009; Devlin, 2006; Macdonald & Carroll, 2006). Certainly the explosive growth of information available on the internet over the past two decades has made the practice of plagiarism easier, and made addressing plagiarism more complicated pecoo, 2002; Ryesky, 2007).

While most universities have a written policy addressing plagiarism, specifics regarding faculty awareness and enforcement of those policies may be unclear (Carter & Punyanunt-Carter, 2007). The development of institutional policies is a first step toward dealing with plagiarism; however, if faculty members are not aware of policies, or implement them inconsistently, students may perceive themselves as being treated unfairly. Beyond whether faculty members are aware of institutional policies, many factors likely lead to inconsistent implementation of them. For example, Keith-Spiegel, Tabachnick, Whitley, and Washburn (1998) found that the most common reasons faculty members ignore cheating were insufficient evidence, the stress associated with confronting a student and following through, and the tediousness of a formal hearing. Gallant (2008) asserts that faculty constraints in reporting plagiarism also include the burden of large classes, committee work, research demands, and fear of retribution or harassment by students. Additionally, Liebler (2009) found that the time and energy required to detect and to deal with cheating combine to create a high cost that may hinder faculty action. Finally, Gerdeman (2000) reports that some faculty members fear they will not be supported by their administrators should they enforce policies on plagiarism.

The organizational structure of higher education also may contribute to the difficulty of dealing with plagiarism. Much of the day-to-day tasks of instruction occur largely at the department level, where faculty members are evaluated on their individual performance (Simon et al., 2003). This review process may hinder faculty members, particularly those who are untenured, from reporting plagiarism in order to avoid being viewed as weak or ineffective by colleagues (Robinson-Zanartu et al., 2005). Therefore, many faculty members make decisions on their own as to what is appropriate professionally, as well as within their courses, for handling instances of plagiarism. Although their decision-making may be done at the individual level, faculty responses to plagiarism certainly have implications at multiple institutional levels.

This study examined faculty views of reporting plagiarism to administrators by testing two research questions. …

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