Combating Plagiarism: A Three-Pronged Approach to Reducing Prevalence in Higher Education

Combating Plagiarism: A Three-Pronged Approach to Reducing Prevalence in Higher Education

Bogdan Hoanca (University of Alaska Anchorage, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1610-1.ch010
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This chapter describes a hybrid approach to combating plagiarism, as developed over the course of a decade. This approach is based on a three-component framework. The first step is educating students about the differences between quoting, paraphrasing and plagiarizing, using examples. Second, students are introduced to plagiarism detection software in use. Students are shown how the software works, the type of reports it generates, as well as some of the most egregious examples of plagiarism encountered in this class in past years (anonymized, of course). A key part of this second step is to show students what the expectations are, in terms of what level of similarity between their paper and their sources is acceptable (attributable to a chance match) and what is blatant (clearly a deliberate act). Finally, the third component is follow-through i.e., reporting students to the university's administrative structures.
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While reading a student’s paper more than a decade ago, this author was surprised to encounter his first incidence of plagiarism. The changes in font type and size, as well as the surprising use of hyperlinks on apparently unrelated words suggested that text from the student’s paper could have been copied directly from a website. A quick Google search, using quotation marks to search for blocks of text, led to the original document that matched entire paragraphs in the student’s paper. As an Assistant Professor of Management Information Systems, the author was unprepared to handle the situation. Dealing with plagiarism after the fact is always more difficult and more unpleasant for all parties involved. The institution where the author worked was also less prepared to handle the situation, as it lacked dedicated and well-publicized processes and organizational resources to handle academic misconduct.

As the Internet is a tremendous resource for conducting research, it has also become a considerable concern for instructors requiring students to write research papers. The ready availability of information on the Internet has greatly facilitated plagiarism in academic papers. This chapter outlines a successful hybrid strategy for combating plagiarism, developed over more than a decade of teaching in a medium-sized public university. Using a three-pronged approach refined over the years, the author has been successful in greatly reducing plagiarism in his classes. The institution where the author works has matured, developing policies, organizational structures and communication channels connecting students, faculty and administrators dealing with academic misconduct. Rather than limiting itself to catching and punishing misconduct after the fact, a much more concerted effort goes into signaling an institutional commitment to academic honesty, in alerting students and faculty about potential problems and in aggregating and using institution-wide information about incidence and recidivism in academic misconduct.

Key Terms in this Chapter Leading provider of plagiarism detection software. The online portal allows authors to submit batches of student papers, or to direct students to submit papers directly to the site. The site collects all papers in a database and is able to compare a submitted paper against publicly available documents as well as against previously submitted documents in its database. This allows a paper submitted at one institution to be matched against the same paper submitted previously at another institution.

Plagiarism: A set of practices that involve the unethical use of information from external sources. Such practices may include using text or ideas without proper attribution, or turning in the work of another person as one’s own.

Academic Integrity (AI): A set of theories, practices and processes for establishing and enforcing a set of moral values in an institution of higher learning.

Plagiarism Detection Software: Software system that takes a submitted text as input, and compares the text against a set of publicly available and privately held documents, resulting in a similarity report. The similarity report includes marking of similar or identical text, hyperlinks or other references to sources that match it, and an overall similarity report. In some cases, the similarity report can be customized to include or not quoted text, and to include or not the bibliography (where the use of a style will ensure that the text of any citation matches the same text in any other document citing the same source).

Academic Misconduct: Actions or behavior that violate the ethics of academic integrity.

Academic Honesty: See ‘Academic Integrity’.

ICAI, International Center for Academic Integrity: Founded by Donald McCabe at Rutgers University in 1992, now including an international membership from 21 countries worldwide, an excellent resource for best practices and publications on academic integrity.

SafeAssign: Provider of plagiarism detection software, similar to Turnitin (see below). The software can be limited to only include papers from the author’s institution and to not enter submitted papers in the database for comparisons across multiple institutions. SafeAssign is also available as a Blackboard plug-in.

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