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Friday, October 10, 2008

Who Takes the Blame for Plagiarsim?

A couple posts previously, I mentioned information about the need for schools to employ Turnitin because of plagiarism. In keeping with this topic and students' overwhelming submission of plagiarized materials, I found this article to be informative and interesting. The author, Nate Anderson, discusses points of a speech from Baroness Deech who runs the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education in the United Kingdom. This agency handles student complaints against university decsions dealing with copyright issues, so Deech gets a first-hand look at these issues.

Anderson begins by mentioning the burgeoning problem of student plagiarism partially due to electronic databases that make it so easy to cut and paste and students growing up in a "Rip, mix, burn" society. Then he asks if it is totally the students' fault and brings in Deech's thesis that teachers and technology have an equal share in the blame. How's this, you ask?

In her speech, Deech mentions (criticizes?) the teaching methods of university teachers. She says that students seem to have expectations that information will be handed to them, often because teachers simplify lectures and complex lessons down to "three bullet points" in a PowerPoint. Instead, she encourges that students take their own notes and limit computer usage for research.

Anderson, also an educator, says he is surprised by the number of students who have forgotten how to even locate books on a shelf and the mentality that if it's not accessible through Google, it's not worth finding. He mentions his dismay at some of the websites that "students consider authoritative." Couple that with students who are poor writers, procrastinators or lazy and it's the perfect recipe for copyright disaster.

Regardless of who might be to blame or contributing to the problem, Anderson makes the claim, and rightly so, that students are still ultimately responsible. Students always have the choice whether to create original works or not.

My questions to you: How well do you feel your college professors advocated - verbally or by example - researching, curiosity, and originality?

Do you feel your professors' methods made you any more aware of copyright issues?

Anderson, N. (2006, October 20). Are teachers and computers responsible for plagiarism?
Retrieved from, http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20061020-8041.html


erinanderson said...

Thanks for the great questions!

In my personal experience in undergrad, I really felt as though my professors really only wanted me to re-iterate what their thoughts and notes were regarding particular topics. Although the research process was valued, it seemed there was more emphasis on understanding THEIR point of view.

I don't feel as though there was a huge emphasis on my personal researching process, but I do feel that the process was valued as a whole, especially for my professors and their master's/graduate students. Working at the university library is where I felt research and originality of ideas were truly valued.

Pam said...

Since I graduated from college in 1980, I have to say that doing origional work was strongly emphasized by most professors. It also wasn't quite so easy to plagerize because we didn't have computers.

Lorena said...

I appreciate the consideration you've both given to the questions. I guess I really didn't answer them myself. I, like Erin, feel that the best grades came from reiterating on tests what professors lectured in class. I do remember taking a lot of my own notes rather than getting handouts or having them compressed for us, but tests were usually generated from the lectures rather than our own research and perceptions.

I think part of what makes these graduate studies so interesting to me is because we are having to find our own materials and build on what we're learning rather than just spitting out info and facts that have been drummed into our heads. As it's kind of obvious with some of our LS504 sessions, I think a lot of us are nervous about our responsibility for this information when it comes to test time. We aren't being lectured too, so it's a little different method of learning for many of us! Lorena

Rebecca said...

Great questions!!

I think my college professors were at both ends of the spectrum. Education courses, in general, promoted creativity and originality in projects and papers (although they also advocated the old teacher wisdom of "beg, borrow, and steal"). Other non-education courses tended to be more "expert" based (for lack of a better term). That is, find sources to tell you everything, because your ideas aren't as important as theirs.

Steve Gallick said...

I agree with the last paragraph that you wrote. I'm paraphrasing, but basically you suggested that ultimately the responsibility lies with the student who chooses to plagiarize.

I think that undergraduates face two major hurdles. One of them is their tendency to procrastinate. I know, I know, I am generalizing, but who hasn't said, "Oh, I have a month to do that project," and then a month later said, "Uh oh, I have a night to do this project!" The old adage rings true (I think it is an old adage, anyway) - the more time you have, the harder it is to get things done.

The second hurdle is at least indirectly linked to the first hurdle. I'm sure you can type a research question into Google/AOL/Ask.com and up pops 50,000 links to complete research papers. If you are a procrastinator, then I'm guessing it is pretty tempting to at least take a look at some of these. If a student uses on of these papers, then it is on them, but I can see how an undergrad can find himself or herself in that kind of predicament.

Lorena said...

Hey Steve, you are so right on all accounts!! I don't know that the undergrad is the only procrastinator, though!! (ahem...I still do my share!) :-)

I also don't know if a lot of people, especially undergrads, fully know what plagiarism entails. In my LS 504 (Intro) class, the professor mentioned that she recently had to talk to one of her students about her method of paraphrasing that was a bit too close to plagiarizing. Sometimes it's really tough to truly "make it our own" when the original is sitting right there!

Thanks for the comments.