Ignorance or Intent?: A Case Study of Plagiarism in Higher Education among LIS Students in the Caribbean

Ignorance or Intent?: A Case Study of Plagiarism in Higher Education among LIS Students in the Caribbean

Ruth Baker-Gardner (The University of the West Indies – Mona, Jamaica) and Cherry-Ann Smart (The University of the West Indies – Mona, Jamaica)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1610-1.ch008
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Plagiarism among students at Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) remains of great concern to faculty and administrators globally, as well as in the English-speaking Caribbean. Although this Cheating Behavior (CB) has been examined in multiple disciplines, few studies have examined it from the viewpoint of Library and Information Science (LIS) students. This is an important lacuna given CB's link to workplace practices and the imminent role of LIS students as information disseminators and protectors of creators' intellectual property rights. Using an explanatory sequential mixed method approach, this small scale case study sought to acquire a better understanding of LIS students' understanding, awareness and knowledge of plagiarism. The views of first and third year undergraduates and postgraduates were analyzed and assessed. The results demonstrated the need for early pedagogical interventions on plagiarism, greater collaboration between faculty and the library, and LIS students' engagement into the Community of Practice (CoP) and profession of librarianship.
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In the English-speaking Caribbean, the growing incidence of plagiarism among Higher Education (HE) students (Almeida, 2015; Francis, 2013) signifies a need to understand students’ awareness, knowledge and perception of these issues. While an investigation into students’ knowledge practices will be important to gauge their full cognizance of plagiarism, Library and Information Science (LIS) students represent a noteworthy group in combatting plagiarism (Gibson & Chester-Fangman, 2011). As graduates and imminent information workers within national, regional, and global networks in different library genres, some aspect of their job responsibility will be to educate persons to become information literate. The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL, 2015) Framework envisions information literacy (IL) as an extension and convergence of student learning goals redefined as:

[T]he set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning.

Much of the disciplinary approach on CBs has focused on students seeking entry to professions such as business, engineering, medicine, and law (e.g., Davy, Kincaid, Smith, & Trawick, 2007; Emmerton, Jiang, & McKauge, 2014; Hansen & Anderson, 2014; Passow, Mayhew, Finelli, Harding, & Carpenter, 2006; Teixeira & Rocha, 2010). This is possibly a consequence of the high-level of expected professional ethics and integrity, and plagiarism’s correlation with unethical workplace practices (Graves & Austin, 2008). Strangely, there is little explicit attribution for LIS students. The authors found this a peculiar omission since, not only are LIS graduates expected to display similar professionalism, but they are integral to imparting appropriate intelligence and ethical ethos to curb students’ CB. The objectives for this research therefore were to:

  • 1.

    Explore LIS students’ understanding, awareness, and knowledge of plagiarism;

  • 2.

    Understand LIS students’ perception of plagiarism as a form of academic dishonesty; and

  • 3.

    Investigate whether LIS students considered themselves competent to provide instructions to others on plagiarism during future information literacy sessions.

An understanding of LIS students’ perception of plagiarism through explanatory sequential research would allow faculty to better assess the impact of LIS students’ learning. An opportunity is also available to explore ways to enhance the department’s pedagogical approaches to information literacy by re-examining and re-evaluating its practices regarding plagiarism instruction. This will invariably impact the way LIS students, as university graduates provide instructions to students and citizens in the future.



The Library School, the research site, is a small department of The University in Jamaica, an island in the Caribbean Sea. The School offers the only accredited regional training for librarians at the undergraduate and postgraduate level in the English-speaking Caribbean. Graduates serve as librarians or library technicians in public, school, national, and special libraries. Only holders of the postgraduate degree are eligible to work as librarians in an academic library.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Caribbean Common Market (CARICOM): A regional organization—comprising 15 member states, five associate members and nine states with observer status—that aims to promote the economic welfare of its members.

Plagiarism: The intentional or unintentional act of using another person’s academic or artistic work or ideas without giving due credit to the creator.

Academic Integrity (AI): The International Centre for Academic Integrity (2015) AU101: The in-text citation "International Centre for Academic Integrity (2015)" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. defines AI as ‘a commitment, even in the face of adversity, to six fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage’.

English-Speaking Caribbean: The English-speaking Caribbean consists of those postcolonial territories where English is the official language: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Turks and Caicos.

Self-Plagiarism: The subsequent use of one’s previously published/unpublished work without citing it as such.

Unpublished Materials: Materials in print or digital form that has not been produced for mass distribution, marketed or distributed to the general public, although these may be cited and shared through informal networks.

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