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CURRENTS IN TEACHING AND LEARNING

VOL. 2 NO. 2, SPRING 2010

a significant difference between intentional plagiarism and careless use of source material.

Even so, if the university or department policy is too vague in defining plagiarism, each teacher and student must attempt a more Aristotelian definition by taking a particular incident and locating it either inside or outside of a larger, more general classification called plagiarism. In those cases in which students sell their work to online paper mills, one would have to try to classify even the selling of an original paper to a paper mill as plagiarism or academic dishonesty in order to punish that student and to set the precedent for future classes. e university policy would have to include such a transaction as a transgression.

A guiding principle, then, in addressing plagiarism in writing classes, is to involve the students in instruc- tional conversations about how intellectual property is defined and given attribution in scholarly writing. Because there is significant variance in definitions of plagiarism across academic institutions, this stage of stasis theory provides a procedural reminder to craft the local definition of plagiarism and, by consequence, to determine and clarify the research and writing pro- cedures for the class depending on skill level and audi- ence expectation. Working through the definition stage for plagiarism in local settings the way classical rheto- ricians worked through their problems would involve the students in the conversation in ways that could illu- minate the principles of intellectual property and keep them in the forefront as students do their research and writing.

Quality. Related to defining a particular act as plagiarism is the third step: deciding how egregious the act is, and whether it is an act already committed or a potential act. Even if one decides that plagiarism has been committed, one might also want to explore the degree of malice involved. Perhaps the student became lost in the confusing jargon of a particular discipline and resorted to copying large sections of

wORceSteR.edu/cuRReNtS

cuRReNtS@wORceSteR.edu

a text. Perhaps the student waited until the eleventh hour to begin writing the paper, and the plagiarism was more the result of carelessness than malevolence. ese considerations qualify the definition of plagiarism and help to determine how or whether one will administer punishment or admonishment. For example, one might decide that a student who bought the paper from an Internet paper mill was clearly dishonest in attempting to receive credit for someone else’s work while putting forth minimal personal effort. However, one might also determine that a student who wrote a paper and then sold it to an Internet paper mill was—while not entirely blameless—a degree less dishonest because that student did not attempt to achieve any academic gain in the course.

As students are taught to discuss the stasis of qual- ity regarding plagiarism, they would have opportunities to ask why certain acts are less acceptable than others.

  • e above case is just an example, however, underscor-

ing the importance of determining the boundaries of a definition of plagiarism. As teachers of writing debate the merits of such a definition with their students, they also clarify the degree of wrongdoing and, thus, set the

groundwork for the fourth stasis.

Procedure. Finally, the determining and defining must result in some action, preferably in line with a pre- viously stated policy. With the move from the specific to the general in the stases, each incident or potential incident of plagiarism can be scrutinized according to the existing policy, along with the context and circum- stances, to determine exactly what procedure should be followed. in each case. However, this attention to pro- cedure for each case necessitates a review of the work going on behind the scenes. We must ask ourselves what we are doing to address the problem. As I indi- cated at the beginning of this essay, there are at least two schools of thought regarding procedure and policy.

  • e first is to spend time and resources attempting to

identify and punish plagiarism as it occurs. e second

Bolin – Addressing Plagiarism

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