Anecdotes of Plagiarism: Some Pedagogical Issues and Considerations

By Aziz, Jamaluddin; Hashim, Fuzirah et al. | Asian Social Science, August 2012 | Go to article overview

Anecdotes of Plagiarism: Some Pedagogical Issues and Considerations


Aziz, Jamaluddin, Hashim, Fuzirah, Razak, Norizan Abdul, Asian Social Science


Abstract

Plagiarism is a contentious issue at best. Despite the common association between teaching, learning and plagiarism, the issue is seldom seen as pedagogical in essence. For that reason, this paper presents some examples of plagiarism in the form of professional anecdotes as experienced by the three researchers. After each anecdote, a juxtaposition is made with the review of literature on issues and studies of plagiarism. The literature review will provide a larger background that makes this paper not only uniquely Malaysian but also globally relevant especially in the context of global students' mobility. In conclusion, the paper not only finds that the different and disparate perceptions of plagiarism among the lecturers and students contribute to the conflict in the process of teaching and learning, but it also evinces the idea that to communicate the ethical aspects of plagiarism is a tricky one especially when it involves students from different educational and cultural backgrounds.

Keywords: plagiarism, anecdotes, pedagogical issues, students' mobility, Malaysian

1. Introduction

In early 2011 Fuzirah presented our paper entitled Combating Plagiarism: Patterns of Plagiarism in Academic Writing at a conference on English for Specific Purposes. In the paper, we equated plagiarism with cheating and stealing, which to our mind was quite a common observation and evaluation as we gathered the same sentiment throughout our initial readings on plagiarism. During the Q&A session, a Middle Eastern member of the audience, in a rather 'territorially animated' tone, disagreed with the equation and told us that our equating plagiarism with stealing was inaccurate or wrong. For him, stealing is a crime and plagiarism is not. Though we have read the same kind of claim in the literature, his tone gives an emotional weight to what has been staying on pages of journal articles. Plagiarism is now both personal and political. Suffice to say, his emotional response to that presentation has given birth to this paper. Needless to say, this paper is not build on emotion, but on professional considerations. As the act or even experience of plagiarism may vary from one institution, one culture, or one paradigm, from another, this paper situates plagiarism in the context of language learning.

In embryo, what the anecdote above illustrates is that the different perceptions and attitude people have towards plagiarism stem from the ontological uncertainties of the meaning of plagiarism itself. The resultant effect of this is that even though plagiarism is real, it seems rather amorphous. Nonetheless, it is important to establish that although the kind of comment given by the Middle Eastern member of the audience is not uncommon, for institutions of higher learning, admitting that their academic staff, especially those who have made their marks in academia, has plagiarized is like opening a Pandora's Box on steroid. Of course, in equating plagiarism with crime, especially in academia, we run the risk of exaggerating the degree of severity of the 'misconduct' as no one in academia, to our knowledge, has been persecuted for the "crime" or act of plagiarism. If the provost of an institution has duly taken a certain action on a plagiarist, the 'news' of the action is immediately shoved under the metaphorical carpet. Plagiarism creates a stigma that would affect the reputation of not only the plagiarist, but also more importantly to the institution. With this scenario in mind, the animated Middle Eastern guy was right that, to a great extent, our evaluation was rather inaccurate, inchoate, and perhaps credulous. Having said that, the inaccuracy in our interpretation is the result of insufficient data available to us in the literature especially in Social Sciences and Humanities, and this paper tries to fill in that gap, albeit not completely, by providing a piece for the omnipresent puzzle.

In effect, this paper problematizes plagiarism as a pedagogical issue within the academia. …

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