Student Plagiarism

Student plagiarism has been a major deterrent in the quest for development of professional practice. The inherent increase in access to academic resources for the students in their studies has led to an upsurge in the quality of their work matched by unreliability too. The internet has been the major source of the information accessed and its easy access and ability to be copied without credit has not been a plus to the professional development of the students. The astonishing factor is that it is not only limited to the student populace but crosses the professional barrier to infest the academicians too. This serves to undermine the reputation of the alma mater of the said personas despite the harsh penalties dished out in the case of detection. The best remedy is for the institution to set up policies to detect any attempts at plagiarism and also establish a culture that fosters honesty and integrity above all else in its academic community (Clayton, 2001). This research will articulate on the issue of student of student plagiarism with emphasis on the effect on developing professional practice.

  1. Contextualization

There are various macro and micro organizational contexts for this research lending credence the objectives of the research. The objectives of this research are the identification of reasons leading to the increase in the plagiarism rates in students and the reasons why they plagiarize.

Plagiarism is actionable whence the culprit, with full awareness, attempts to duplicate information already published and pass it on as their own work. This is without crediting the source of the information or attributing credit to it (Dante, 2010). There are however cases where student is not guilty of plagiarism such as whence there is the element of good faith in acknowledging the source but doing so incorrectly resulting in the element of plagiarism. This is most because of previous failures on instruction of the right methods of attribution to the sources used. The main issues associated with plagiarism include the research skills of the students and note making skills. Some students have significantly poor research skills and thus resort to plagiarism. This is effect can be a two- way blame street with fault being on their end and their tutors too. The students might be too lazy to partake in any self-improvement activities in the field of research while the tutors might not have provided the necessary nurturing for research independence. Before the allocation of research work/assignments, the teachers should be clear on the requirements and other prerequisites in research should have been accomplished. This is to avoiding plagiarism based on lack of knowledge. The focus would now be on dishonesty rather than the involuntary offence. Note-making skills also come into question whence one analyzes the lectures on hand. Some assignments are based on taught programs with reliance on lectures provided in class. Without the appropriate note taking skills, some students would find themselves lacking in the information needed to tackle the assignment on hand. The students should also have smart note taking skills wherein they could actually decipher the meaning as elucidated from the source unlike just copying the text (Bull, 2001). They should also be able to garner knowledge from the authoritative sources and be able to discern which of the available sources is the most authoritative.

Self-management and the drafting/ revision language are also other issues that counter in the student plagiarism saga. Some students rely on last minute instances before submission dates to work on their material which makes them susceptible to the nuances of duplication from the pressure to submit on time. This procrastination is definitely harmful and self-imposed from laziness. Another reason would be the mismanagement of time in terms of the students pacing themselves inadequately to provide ample time for correction of errors or even drafting the reports. Once the student realizes enough time has lapsed already, panic sets in and thus the inevitable action to be resorted to being the copying of already available work. The tutors are at fault here too as they need to provide the urgently needed support (Cizek, 1999). Drafting and revision language may be a hindrance as some students may lack the finesse of formal writing. The lack of skill in academic or formal writing may be just the recipe to push the student to the vice of plagiarism. The goal herein would be to build up the students’ confidence in their abilities in technical writing and language proficiency too. Teaching content should provide a collage of craft and curriculum.

The micro organizational context in this case would be content and format in terms of the students. The content of the curriculum is a major factor in the research. The curriculum dictates the technicality of the areas covered and also elucidates on the instruction methods to be employed in the enlightening of the students. If the students are inadequately instructed, the resulting pandemonium is the onset ideas on plagiarized work sets. Frequent changes in the curriculum content can also serve to destabilize the set student learning structure causing a lack of objectivity and clear direction, another recipe for dishonesty (DUAIAC, 2001). The format on the other hand refers to the various aspects of the curriculum such as the student body, timetable and general academic environment. The staff would be mainly the facilitators of study and teaching to the students. They can influence the students to abhor or be more inclined to plagiarism through their assistance and level of effort incorporated in tracking the offenders. The penalties one garners serve as a deterrent too. The format also incorporates the mode of learning, which is a major factor in the tendency to engage in dishonest academic practices. The timetable also falls under this umbrella and its organization. A well-organized timetable ensures a disciplined student ample time for drafting and eventually revision of the content. A rushed timetable serves only to destroy student confidence in the lack of a time frame to accomplish all. The environment also factors in whence if a culture of academic vigilance is adhered to and discipline maintained, the vice would be non-existent.

The macro organizational context that prime plagiarism in this case can be infrastructure and pedagogy. Infrastructure implies the hardware, systems, technology and devices employed in the general instruction and use by the students. It can also balloon to cover the general education resources available. The infrastructure is considered as the main resource currently, the internet, lies under this docket. Access to the internet provides the ease of access too millions of databases which provide the necessary information for the diligent students to use and the lazy to duplicate. If utilized in the right way, its ease of access in an asset and provision should be made for its fostering in the institution. There should also be provisions for training on the appropriate se and improvement of the hardware available (DUAIAC ,2001). The learning devices should also be developed to carter for and support the identified need-areas so as to avoid any temptation to engage in untoward academic activity by the students. Pedagogy on the other hand references the process of knowledge acquisition according to the set models. Incorporated in this discipline is active, collaborative and autonomous learning. Active learning is the most preferred as it provides the students interactive systems for engagement in constructive learning activities (CSU, 2004). The other learning discourses are as their names suggest. This is important in the plagiarism context as pedagogy ensures quality learning which would be a direct counter to plagiarism. The instructional design should be evolved such as to deal with the identified loopholes leading to and dealing with academic bootlegging. Thus these two macro organizational issues’ handling should be spear-headed in the assessment of academic dishonesty in students to eliminate or rather, understand the vice. Therefore the two issues the research designed is based upon are macro and micro organizational contexts of plagiarism. Their importance and the light they shed on the problem have been espoused upon in the previous passages.

  1. Literature review and Conceptual Framework.

Through this literature review, this paper surmounts to present a theoretical foundation on the analysis of reasons behind the upsurge in plagiarism cases in all the platforms even online. The review focused mainly on plagiarism in the digital era with respect to the definition of plagiarism, its prevalence, causes and the general factors in its general trend. The discussions into the literature are delved into deeply to tend to the research questions as poised from the sources. The main causes of plagiarism identified are ethical theories, the general perception of students on plagiarism, its social desirability and also demographics are sited herein with the valid authoritative sources.

The definition of plagiarism according to the Central Connecticut State University (2004) is the falsification of research information or the passing off of unoriginal work as original with full intent. This is becoming a common trend in most institutions of learning as per the findings in McCabe & Trevino (2002). The findings elucidate on the moral academic decay and inadequate penalties. There is also minimal risk of detection partly due to laxity of the faculty in the implementation of preventive policies. The validity of McCabe’s claim is on his credentials wherein he was a fellow at the Centre for Academic Integrity conducting research directly from learners consecutively in 1990, 1995, 1999 and 2002. The conclusion of his latest study was an overwhelming 30% of the subjects cheated and 50% were frequent plagiarizers (McShane & Von Glinow, 2005). A third of the faculty also admitted to having knowledge in the last two years of academic dishonesty by earners in their courses but took no action on the knowledge. Fain & Bates (2002) along with Weinstein & Dobkin (2002) established the rise in higher education plagiarism rates. The internet was the prime suspect with some learners using the internet to improve their work quality and others choosing it to cut corners in duplication.

Under the ethical theory cause of plagiarism lie the notions of morality & ethics, cultural values, utilitarian theories and Kantian theories. McShane and Von Glinow (2005) delve into ethics as the divination of moral values in the context of positive and negative actions with their consequences. The text also espouses on the relationship between personal character and ethical principles. The postulation is that an ethical person is sensitive to and recognizes ethical issues on hand. Lyons (2005) discerned the American climate on morality and ethics, finally establishing the dissatisfaction of the older generation with the younger generation. The research was conducted through interviews wherein plagiarism was measured as one of the ethical issues being undertaken by the 18 to 29 age group. This age-group was coincidentally also more satisfied with the general moral and ethical climate of the state at the time. The cultural values held also cunt and have an effect that resounds on the plagiarism fiasco in also the social arena. An example is where China as very minimal plagiarism laws and thus an internationals student from China would experience problems in adapting to the situation in case of immigration to another institute (McShane & Von Glinow, 2005).

There are therefore various cultural variations due to upbringing and environment with the core being the element of perception as espoused in the previous example. Plagiarism in itself is a culture fostered whence originality and pride are not fostered as the honor codes of the academic community. In terms of utilitarian theories adhered to, the emphasis is on maximum satisfaction with minimal costs. This bolsters plagiarism as the students seek to achieve the greatest of results with the most minimal of efforts. The pressure to earn a good grade or garner a degree proves to place it as the greatest good causing the idea of academic dishonesty to be a triviality comparing the odds. This utilitarian theory was promulgated in the 19th Century by the visionary John Stuart Mill with weight on moral implications of choices (Sullivan & Pecorino, 2002). Immanuel Kant was another influential figure in the field of philosophy whose moral law can be used to understand the increasing plagiarism rates (McCormack, 2001). He practiced his academic jurisprudence in the 1700’s and considered moral law to be instinctive. In essence, happiness was not to be measured empirically and the knowledge of what makes one happy is not known by all people.  The intention of a person is what defines goodness. Therefore human reason determines the rationality of the good or bad action in its classification. It is with this thinking that a learner might rationally rationalize the goodness of bootlegging academically for the greater good (Sullivan & Pecorino, 2002).

The second cause of plagiarism is social desirability wherein the self-centeredness of the current society has been the root of the decay of ethics and hence the increase in cheating. Self centeredness is evident in two avenues with one being the tutors not caring or bothering to deal with cheating and the rise in collaboration amongst the learners for mutual benefit. The social projection theory can also be attributed to. In this case, one views the social world under the awning umbrella of one’s beliefs instead of some level of objectivity. The earners might therefore consider plagiarism to be occurring on a frequent level in the institution while it may not be. They may use this belief to condone their actions and behavior. Two other theories would also advance as causes of plagiarism; self categorization and social identity theory.  The latter theory dictates that people see the world as they perceive themselves (Haslam, Eggins, & Reynolds, 2003). This is the basis of the clique system in the sense of identification. Thhe current trend whence the downloading of music, reading articles freely and file-sharing is the norm provides the blanket through which the copy-pasting of information is not considered unethical in their perceptions. The student also forms notions on what is acceptable from what the society around him lets pass through too. There is also the element of peer pressure and competitiveness that bolster the student to the other divide of academic dishonesty in order to overcome obstacles set forth (Peirce and Almshouse, 1999). The belief that their peers engage in plagiarism provide further incentive to engage in it (Central Connecticut State University, 2004).

The third cause of plagiarism can be attributed to perceptions or how it is viewed upon. There are various conflicting views on it for varied reasons among the different stakeholders chief among them ambiguity or conflict in the way the students were educated on plagiarism (McShane & Von Glinow, 2005). There are two different perceptions, public perception and learner’s perception. Weiss and Bader (2003) suggest that public opinion is of mistrust and disinterest causing those who practice in the vice to consider a change having no effect as the public already distrusts them. Heberling (2002) also reports on the fact that cheating takes place more on the academic platform more than on ground according to public perception which is not the case. Leaner perception on the hand has been that most do not recognize the difference between what the instructors consider dishonest (Williams, 2001). There is the conflict whence the instructor hands out collaborative work projects and the learners submit work sometimes considered as plagiarized. There is also the understanding by students on the crime of plagiarism being victimless and thus engaging in it harms no one unless one is caught. This choice perception causes plagiarism to not be an ethical or moral issue but a matter of weighing the odds of being caught. It all amounts to the cost-benefit analysis of the said action and the risks therein, which in this case are the penalties of being caught. The crime is not however victimless for the credibility of the Alma mater comes into question due to the student’s cavalier attitude regarding matters of honesty.

  1. Research design

The nature of the data used is mainly from secondary data from the sources articulated in the literature review to form a theoretical framework. This is by the application of data from sources with impeccable credentials. The reasons behind this are accessibility of this data and the time saving in this case. For accurate results, the sampling frame should be sufficiently large and this would require immense resources which may be lacking. Therefore secondary data was the most viable option with a series of interviews to verify the data. The feasibility of comparisons among the different texts for definitive conclusions would also only be feasible in the use of secondary data (Williams, 2001). The major deterrent of this design is in the data reliability verification. There is no definitive way to establish the data used as genuine.