Magazine article Times Higher Education

Quotation Marks Not Compulsory

Magazine article Times Higher Education

Quotation Marks Not Compulsory

Article excerpt

Paper reveals students' attitudes to attribution and punishment for plagiarism. Paul Jump writes

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.

As an upstanding citizen of the academic community, Times Higher Education feels obliged to admit that this phrase was coined by Charles Darwin in The Descent of Man. However, it seems that the many new undergraduates who bear out its truth would have no such qualms about presenting it as their own insight.

According to a paper in the journal Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, new undergraduates are typically confident that they understand what plagiarism involves, but fail to demonstrate it in tests.

The paper, "Academic integrity: a quantitative study of confidence and understanding in students at the start of their higher education", is written by Philip Newton, an associate professor in Swansea University's College of Medicine. He asked about 600 new undergraduates and postgraduates from across the disciplines whether a student's behaviour in various scenarios was acceptable - and, if not, how it should be punished.

Of the undergraduates, 86 per cent said that they had at least a "reasonable understanding" of plagiarism, and 74 per cent said the same of referencing conventions. But they consistently opted for significantly less stringent punishments for plagiarism than their own unnamed research-intensive university actually applies. For instance, only 10 per cent thought that submitting a bought essay as their own should lead - as it does - to expulsion. …

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