Academic journal article International Journal of Education

Plagiarism Norms and Practices in Coursework Assignments

Academic journal article International Journal of Education

Plagiarism Norms and Practices in Coursework Assignments

Article excerpt


The study compared the plagiarism norms and practices among pre-university, diploma and degree students. The specific aspects examined were perceived necessity to include citations in assignments, preferred penalties for plagiarism, and academic writing practices. The questionnaire responses of 263 students from three levels of university education were analysed. The results showed that the perceived necessity for attribution in assignments is the highest for the degree students but the norm to require citations and to penalise omission of citations is not extensive at all three levels. A majority of the students felt that plagiarism should be penalised but preferred warning from their lecturer, assignment resubmission and counselling. Mosaic plagiarism is the most common whereby students combine texts from the same source or different sources without proper citation and referencing. The most common unethical help-seeking behaviour is copying another student's work. The findings suggest that while lack of knowledge on citation and referencing may lead to improper or non-attribution of sources, plagiarism cannot be dealt with by instruction on citation and referencing alone as respect for intellectual property can only be inculcated by treating plagiarism as a serious academic misdemeanour.

Keywords: plagiarism; academic writing; attribution; citation; referencing

1. Introduction

University education encompasses learning ethical practices in academic writing and recognition of intellectual property through attribution. Plagiarism is "the theftof words or ideas, beyond what would normally be regarded as general knowledge" (Park, 2003, p. 472; Rezanejad & Rezaei, 2013). An example of a definition of plagiarism presented to students is "submitting or presenting work in a course as if it were the student's own work done expressly for that particular course when, in fact, it is not" (University of Calgary, n.d.; see also Pecorari, 2010). This includes passing offideas and words which are not the student's own work without acknowledging the source through citation and referencing. However, when students are taught citation and referencing conventions in academic writing courses, the emphasis is often on rules for the use of punctuation marks and elliptical information to show author's names, title of research article, journal or book, volume, issue and page numbers as well as publisher information (Mah & Ting, 2013). The mechanics get more attention than respect for intellectual property of others and plagiarism as a theftof words and ideas. Students should be taught "what academic integrity involves, why professors value it, and how exactly to carry it out" (Blum, 2009, A35). The number of articles that are published on plagiarism in academic writing shows that academics and researchers are concerned about unethical practices in academic writing.

Studies have shown that prevailing norms on attribution in academic writing influence use of writing strategies that constitute plagiarism. Top-down university policies on plagiarism influence prevalence of plagiarism. For example, Sheard, Dick, Markham, Macdonald, and Walsh (2002) conducted a survey on 287 first year information technology students in two Australian universities, Monash and Swinburne, and found that the Swinburne students were more aware of plagiarism regulations at their university because of the recent crackdown on plagiarism. When students and academics who plagiarise are not penalised, this creates the environment for more unethical practices in academic writing. When the university ignores claims of plagiarism by academics and even promotes the lecturer in question without a proper investigation, it sends the message that plagiarism is acceptable (e.g., Malaysia Kini, 2013). When cheaters go unpunished, this sets up a situation which rewards cheaters and disadvantages those who maintain academic integrity (Callahan, 2006; Jones, 2014; O'Neill & Pfeiffer, 2012). …

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