Magazine article ASEE Prism

The Plague of Self-Plagiarism

Magazine article ASEE Prism

The Plague of Self-Plagiarism

Article excerpt

TS LATE. THE deadline is near, and you haven't started the literature review for your article. But wait. Your published 2002 article on teleological engineering has just what you need, so you copy and paste and meet the deadline with hours to spare. What could possibly be wrong? Well, you've just self-plagiarized! As teachers, we all know what plagiarism is, our schools have policies against it and we probably put a line in our syllabus cautioning students to avoid it. But what about self-plagiarism? Not only are there often no rules against it, but there is little recognition that a problem even exists.

Self-plagiarism involves copying from one's own work without proper attribution. A common scenario, particularly in graduate and senior elective classes, is to assign a course project that is a major part of the course grade. You discuss plagiarism with the students, and because you use an Internet anti-plagiarism tool such as "Turn-it-in," you're fairly confident that students have not plagiarized.

But it may not have occurred to you that some of your students self-plagiarized. Copying one's own work is dishonest because it presents the material as original work. It's also unfair since students who don't have a previous report to rely on have to do a lot more work to earn the same grade. But perhaps more important, students who simply recopy their previous work are also cheating themselves out of an opportunity to learn more.

The problem is compounded by the fact that many students don't think plagiarizing is wrong. So it stands to reason that they don't have a problem with self-plagiarizing. That's all the more reason you must let them know that writing reports in this way is a form of cheating.

There are several approaches you can take. When the course project is assigned, talk to the class about self-plagiarizing. …

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