Can plagiarism be weeded out?

Oct 26, 2011

To cheat or not to cheat? It's a question scholars have grappled with for generations. For the majority of students, cheating is out of the question because success can only be achieved through honest and hard work, i.e. academic integrity.

Yet there remains a minority of who violate university charters and engage in academic misconduct.

According to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), there are 1.2 million full- and part-time students enrolled at 95 institutions of higher learning across our nation. How many of them might cheat on their way to isn't clear.

"But we're getting closer to answering such an important question," says Catherine Bolton, associate dean of student academic services for Concordia's Faculty of Arts and Science. She is currently investigating the topic with Mebs Kanji and Soheyla Salari, who are associate professor and research associate in the Department of Political Science, respectively.

"At the Faculty of Arts and Science, we have just begun to systematically examine ways to bolster academic integrity," she continues.

Bolton and her colleagues have undertaken a new study on academic integrity. They presented their preliminary findings at the 2011 International Conference on Academic Integrity, which occurred in Toronto from October 14 to 16.

Data collected, so far, is heartening. "We found the vast majority of students earn their degrees without ever being accused of cheating - most don't cheat because of their desire to learn, work hard and succeed," says Bolton. "We also found our institution ensures the highest standards of academic integrity."

Still, at this early stage, the investigation has revealed remarkably consistent patterns that warrant closer attention. "We found most cases of academic misconduct are reported among students enrolled in social science programs," says Bolton. "What's more, our evidence suggests these academic violations typically occur during first-year courses."

The research team found incidents of academic misconduct are reported by a relatively small contingent of professors from a few departments.

"Could it be that professors are underreporting? If so, universities would require an alternative plan of attack," says Bolton. "We need to establish mechanisms to verify whether any incidents are, in fact, being missed."

Additional evidence suggests the bulk of academic misconduct stems from non-exam related incidents, which shows that the Faculty of Arts and Science does have a solid examination culture that's taken seriously by the majority of students.

What is the most frequently cited charge in the Faculty? "Most often, it occurs when students plagiarize and present the work of others without properly acknowledging a source," says Bolton.

Plagiarism continues despite consistent warnings — on course outlines and in public materials directed to new students — spelling out that appropriating the work of others will not be tolerated.

While the reasons students give for committing plagiarism vary, most of these infractions are entirely preventable. "To significantly reduce the problem, professors should clearly define proper citation practices and provide exact guidelines in what's expected for assignments," says Bolton.

Regardless of how much is done to bolster academic integrity, or how much research is conducted on the topic, cheating will never be entirely eliminated. "There's a critical need for universities to have effective measures to identify and correct cases of academic misconduct," says Bolton.

So far, the research team has found disciplinary measures can have rehabilitating results. "When caught, those who are alleged to have broken the code of conduct are usually charged and punished," says Bolton. "Few students, surprisingly, contest such charges. When given a second chance, most students opt to continue with their program and few reoffend."

It's essential that universities consistently remind students that cheating is unethical, is punishable and has consequences for society. "After all, by promoting the importance of academic integrity in higher education, we help shape today's thinkers into tomorrow's leaders," says Bolton.

Explore further: Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

More information: 2011 International Conference on Academic Integrity: www.academicintegrity.org/conferences/2011_Conference

Provided by Concordia University

4 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ensuring research integrity

May 09, 2011

Canada needs an agency to investigate research misconduct, states an editorial in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Time to address stimulant abuse on our campuses

Sep 06, 2011

Universities and colleges need to do more to protect young adults from the dangers of illicit stimulant use and to educate them about harms, argue the authors of an editorial in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Researchers say instructors can reduce cheating by being clear

Apr 05, 2011

A new University of Missouri study says that the reasons students give for cheating are rational, and that stricter punishments won't solve the problem. Instead, teachers should communicate clear standards and provide consistent ...

NASA seeks plans for education agreement

May 01, 2006

NASA says it is seeking proposals for a cooperative agreement notice, "Motivating Undergraduates in Science and Technology, or the MUST project.

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

rsklyar
1 / 5 (1) Oct 27, 2011
Plagiarism in a "family" style
How young ambitious capoes and soldiers from the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) under supervision of a decrepit american don-godfather from Northwestern University are successfully completed their sequential plagiaristic enterprise: http://issuu.com/...saivaldi
rawa1
not rated yet Oct 27, 2011
The more knowledge the people collect, the more this knowledge becomes accessible and the more the new knowledge will become expensive - the stronger the temptation for their plagiarism will be.

More news stories

Clippers and coiners in 16th-century England

In 2017 a new £1 coin will appear in our pockets with a design extremely difficult to forge. In the mid-16th century, Elizabeth I's government came up with a series of measures to deter "divers evil persons" ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...