- Culture of Replication. Today’s students live in a culture where copying is rampant. Information technology and the Web have fostered a cut and paste mentality, so unless they learn otherwise, they think it’s acceptable for school work too.
- Time Panic. Students trying to balance their course load with part-time work and a social life, perhaps with family responsibilities, may not allow enough time to research an assignment properly.
- Lack of Skills. Students may have trouble finding and analyzing sources for assignments and are afraid to ask for help. They may feel their own ideas and words are inadequate, and also lack the writing skills to paraphrase the work of others correctly.
- Lack of Knowledge. Some do not understand the importance of citing sources and how to do it properly.
- Disregard for Course Goals. They may feel an instructor is unreasonable or insensitive, and therefore think that cheating is justified.
- Laziness. Some don’t want to make the effort yet still want to make a good grade. They may regard paying to buy a term paper from an online paper mill as no different from paying college tuition.
- Education as a Means to an End—No Intrinsic Value. They may see their university degree simply as a passport to a better job, and do not place value on education as personal development. They just want to get it done and get out.
Though students are ultimately accountable for their own academic integrity, faculty can proactively share the responsibility for discouraging plagiarism and fostering the values and skills that engender intellectual honesty. The Council of Writing Program Administrators explores this sense of shared responsibility among students, faculty, and administrators in the WPA Statement on Best Practices for Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism.
Many resources are available to assist faculty in their efforts. The following four sources are credible and representative of the ongoing conversation and consensus surrounding plagiarism policies on college campuses:
- Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism. (WPA Statement)
- “Discourage Plagiarism by Promoting Academic Honesty: A Proactive Approach for Teachers”. (James Porter article)
- The Plagiarism Handbook (2001). (Free anti-plagiarism tips from Robert Harris)
- Avoiding Plagiarism and Advice for Best Practices. (Purdue’s Online Writing Lab – OWL)
Collectively, these five sources reflect the current consensus for best practices in teaching writing:
- Establish a policy and bring it explicitly into class (sample language for course syllabi).
- Require students complete an academic integrity tutorial early in your course, so they understand what constitutes plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty and how to avoid them. (New UAA Academic Integrity Tutorial)
- Design assignments responsibly in order to engage students in pursuing meaningful course goals through the process of writing (Porter article).
- Make writing and the use of sources part of teaching, in all classes (for faculty whose course content is already extremely full but who would like to add a brief writing assignment that coaches students in the proper use of source material, Here is a handout for an assignment description and scoring rubric).
- Enforce established policies. (UAA/APU campus policies).
Because our faculty and students have testified to a disturbing level of plagiarism and cheating on our campus, we would like to sustain an interactive discussion, with the goal of strengthening our campus’s respect for intellectual inquiry and honesty. One way to begin a discussion is to explore case studies or scenarios that will enable us to define the ethical boundary lines while we simultaneously acknowledge the complexity of an issue as important as plagiarism. To this end, we hope that faculty and students will examine the scenarios provided, vote on whether they are examples of ethical or unethical practices, and then discuss in classrooms or other forums the factors that make it difficult to decide.
This semester’s scenarios are provided by one of our graduate students in English Rhetoric. Emily Adams created these as part of a research project for her thesis, and collected the survey responses herself through January 2009. She has graciously agreed that we may use her scenarios for the next few months as part of our academic honesty initiative at UAA.
This online interactive tutorial was created in summer 2010 by JoAnn Gonzalez-Major, Instructional Designer at the Faculty Technology Center. The tutorial is based on UAA policies and resources, and should take 30 – 40 minutes to complete. Interactive content includes videos, exercises and a final self-test. Students work through 10 questions until they score 100%, and are eligible for a certificate of completion [printable]. View the Academic Integrity Tutorial. To embed the tutorial in your Blackboard courses, go to http://moodle.uaa.alaska.edu, Sign in and select the Blackboard Start Here link for detailed instructions. Faculty Technology Center staff welcome your comments and suggestions at 786-4646, option 4.
The Academic Integrity Tutorial was customized for APU also. You can access it here.
Inquiry-based Synthesis Writing: A Writing-Across-the-Curriculum Strategy for Promoting Academic Honesty
Faculty who choose to include minimal writing in their courses can create an early assignment that requires students to synthesize ideas from two or more sources in response to a particular question, a question directly related to the goals of the course. In other words, an instructor assigns two or more readings and asks the students to answer a core question informed by those readings. The response should be motivated by the need to answer a question and should not be a summary of the readings for the sake of summary.1
Instructors should be intimately familiar with the assigned reading so that they can recognize instantly when students have crossed the line from acceptable to unacceptable use of sources. I encourage instructors to pay special attention to the writers’ focus, organization, accuracy, and use of conventions.
- Some writers may summarize without addressing the question directly.
- Less experienced or less confident writers will tend to be source-driven, organizing one paragraph for each assigned reading, a move that positions the sources as superior to their own ideas.
- The more confident and experienced writers will tend to be idea-driven, organizing one paragraph for each idea and subordinating their sources to serve as support, clarification, or antagonism to their own ideas.
- Those writers who do not fully understand the readings may distort the source material while still following the conventions of citation. (That’s hard to assess unless you’ve read the source material yourself.)
- On the other hand, some writers who demonstrate accurate comprehension of the source material may seldom comply with citation conventions.
1 The synthesis response can be either informative or argumentative, depending on the course goals and the instructor’s purpose. If the instructor decides to have students construct an argument as they synthesize sources, it is a good idea to provide source materials that disagree with each other regarding the assigned question.
A rubric has been supplied to help with this simple kind of assignment. The writing itself may only be 1-2 pages long but will reveal a great deal about a student writer’s ability to incorporate outside sources, and that insight will provide the instructor with an opportunity to intervene in meaningful and efficient ways.
Scoring Rubric for Inquiry-based Synthesis Writing
The writer who has achieved mastery The writer who has achieved proficiency The writer who is still developing The writer who needs further practice Focus Addresses the question directly and develops a thorough response. Acknowledges the question and develops a basic response. Addresses the question only indirectly and develops a minimal response. Ignores the question and insufficiently develops a response. Organization Organizes the response according to her own ideas and argument. Organizes the response according to her own ideas and according to the source material. Organizes the response according to the source material without asserting her own thematic structure. Does not organize by paragraphs but presents entire response as one large chunk of information. Accuracy and Comprehension Represents the source ideas accurately, with comprehension, and identifies relationships among sources. Represents the source ideas fairly, with some distortion; attention to relationships is slight. Misses opportunities to incorporate source materials; no mention of relationships among sources. Ignores the source material in responding to the question. CitationConventions Consistently observes standard citation conventions, both in-text and at the end of text. Occasionally observes standard citation conventions; needs to be more consistent with citations in-text and at end of text. Seldom observes standard citation conventions; needs to review in-text and end of text citations. Ignores standard citation conventions.Needs thorough study of citation conventions both in-text and at the end of text.
In May, 2009, Don Mohr submitted his Final Report on UAA Plagiarism and Related Academic Honesty based on his literature review and consultations with certain groups and faculty members on campus. In Spring, 2010, the Faculty Senate created an Ad Hoc Committee on Plagiarism to review Don’s findings and prioritize recommendations. That summer, UAA purchased the International Center for Academic Integrity’s Academic Integrity Assessment Guideto investigate academic integrity perspectives on its campuses. The Assessment was done in Fall of 2010 and Spring of 2011, and preliminary results shared with the UAA Community shortly after. In March of 2012, focus groups were convened to review the findings and inform next steps. The Final Report was released in April, listing 14 recommendations based both on best practices in place at educational institutions across the country and on UAA’s particular issues as revealed by the Assessment. The Faculty Senate has reinstated The Ad Hoc Committee on Academic Integrity for 2012-2013. The group will focus on five goals: finalize their Board of Regents policy revisions, revise their proposal for a position of coordinator/director of academic integrity, update the UAA AI Tutorial, create a
sanctioning rubric to be used by the Dean of Students Office in cases of academic dishonesty, and develop a faculty guide for academic integrity. Co-chairs of the Committee are David Bowie (English) and Sally Bremner (Consortium Library.