Plagiarism: an educational approach for students and staff
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Plagiarism is a growing problem in the University due to increased availability of online scholarly source materials, and a lack of understanding of plagiarism and collusion. . At the same time, it has become easier to detect plagiarism using Google and Turnitin software.
The project took an educational approach to plagiarism, backed by training for students and staff in use of Turnitin [an on-line text-matching application] and a ‘one strike’ policy on suspected plagiarism.
In the pilot, all new MSc students in ScHARR were given training in plagiarism. This was followed by an exercise, in which they summarised two short articles and then checked this essay using Turnitin. They also completed a declaration that they had undertaken the training and understood plagiarism and the disciplinary consequences. Submitted test essays and Turnitin reports were checked by the School’s plagiarism officer.
Staff were trained to use ‘Turnitin’ and set up ‘classrooms’ for their end-of-semester assessments. Students check their assignments in Turnitin revision classes before submitting them. They attach the Turnitin report to their work when it is handed in. A generous cut-off of 25 per cent matched text was allowed in this pilot. Any essays with higher than this percentage matching must be explained by the students. Students also sign a declaration that the work is their own and that they understand what plagiarism is.
Students understand that any discovered plagiarism or collusion will be dealt with strictly by the School.
The target audience: all undergraduate and postgraduate students.
All ScHARR students now take the training at the start of their studeis in the School.
The main focus of the approach was educational. Rather than simply penalising students who plagiarise assessments, we want to educate them out of the tendency, while providing a robust mechanism to identify text matching.
‘ Turnitin’ on-line application that Instantly identifies papers containing unoriginal material. See weblink below.
An educational pack provided to all students and also available online (see web link below).
- Administration of test essays
- Some initial resistance from course staff to using Turnitin
- Distance learning students had problems accessing Turnitin
- Turnitin matches text rather than detects plagiarism. If text (e.g. book content) is not in the Turnitin database, it will not be matched.
- Incidence of plagiarism has been reduced to zero among pilot student groups
- Improved understanding of plagiarism among students.
The pilot was evaluated by interviews with students and staff, and positive findings meant that the scheme was introduced for all ScHARR students from September 2007.
The scheme is now firmly embedded as part of the learning culture of the School. We are currently piloting its use for dissertations and may explore how to extend it to PhD theses in due course.
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