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What’s yours and What’s not?
Despite the measures suggested by various scholars underlining the academic writing process, recent studies show that plagiarism tend to remain an unsolved problem for educators at global level, even today. My primary aim for this thesis is to understand the reasons for plagiarism in college students, predominantly international students which I will do by looking at insights offered by various intellectuals who have been researching in this field. My secondary aim will be to explore possible solutions given by these intellectuals to avoid plagiarism in college writing, particularly in international students.
Experts in scholarly literature like Blum, Mcleod and Howard along with other scholars like Marsh and Kolich, who share a fair amount of research in plagiarism, divide plagiarism into intentional and unintentional plagiarism. They have suggested possible ways to fight against intentional plagiarism with “encouraging [students]to commit themselves to intellectual inquiry and originality” (Kolich 148). With the increasing growth of plagiarism in college students in the USA, teachers see international students as more susceptible to plagiarism and likely to be filed under academic dishonesty than their American counterparts. Many international students come from a traditional academic culture which emphasize rote memorization as a common practice in India and China. This is one major reason why international students are not accustomed to the culture of critically analyzing someone else’s work and acknowledging the original work. Students from Eastern countries tend to treat homework assignments as counterproductive since they do not count towards their final grade. Because of this reason, students feel that homework assignments are not worth their time. Many Eastern cultures have different views regarding academic integrity and the ownership of work. For example, in China, it is appreciated if the student starts an essay with a quotation, but it is not put in quotes or cited. Thus, most students from China, India, Korea and other Eastern countries are not expected to even know the formatting styles of MLA and APA. Some international students are not well versed in academic writing which demands critical thinking and giving your own opinion on a text. This forces them to look for samples and ways to approach an assignment which results in unintentional plagiarism. Howard has rightly analyzed, “Unintentional plagiarism is not cheating at all, but a simple lack of understanding about the conventions of documentation” (Howard 81). Thus, expert researchers like Howard, Watson and Sutherland-Smith proclaim plagiarism as a complex and disputed concept arising in college students and feel that college students usually struggle with the challenge of creating an authorial voice to accomplish their goal of achieving academic success.
Because they are non-native speakers, international students find it difficult to express their views clearly in another language and have limited writing experience which urge them to look for resources on internet. But the lack of knowledge of addressing the original writer makes the international students unintentional plagiarists, causing them to face the harsh consequences of academic dishonesty. Over the last few years, the USA has strong concerns over the growing rate of plagiarism in international students and is trying to implement measures to prevent it. Thus, to minimize plagiarism and challenges faced by the educators and WPA’S in universities, every university has clearly stated the academic dishonesty policies, which clearly defines the consequences of plagiarism, and has given resources and guidelines which can assist students to prevent any form of plagiarism.
Like non-native speakers, domestic students in the USA are also found plagiarizing for various reasons. Although, students in the USA are familiar with the consequences of plagiarizing from beginning of their high school, still it is a common practice found among them at college level. Unlike the international students, domestic students tend to plagiarize due to laziness, unclear understanding of what is expected from their writing, lack of time management organizational skills and sometimes, financial responsibilities. Many surveys have claimed that college students hire writers to complete their assignments to achieve good grade without working on it on their own. One of the many reasons for plagiarizing among domestic students is that they are working and have no time and energy left to complete their assignments by the deadline. Wells clearly states that,
I saw that much of the plagiarism in term papers for content-area classes resulted from desperation. Desperate measures are required in desperate situations, and writers who are uncertain of their abilities, of the appropriateness of their authorial voices, of the meanings of the materials they read, or of the teacher’s expectations for the assignment prefer “getting something in” to getting nothing in; and this is the only product they can produce under the circumstances (Wells 61).
Authorship is the most vital component to understanding of plagiarism. While educators across the world use different approaches to educate students about the importance of acknowledging authorship of a text, students find it challenging to understand the importance of addressing someone else’s work and end up copying or plagiarizing. From the beginning, in writing classes, the composition teachers and WPA’s work towards training students in finding their own voice in their writing which generates authorship of their work.
Based on the research made by several scholars like Wells, Blum, Chandrasoma, Pennycook, DeSena, MacDonald, Howard, Watson and Hayes, potential causes for international students to plagiarize can be categorized as:
Patchwriting: Patchwriting appears in a paper when the student tries to delete or change the order of words, change original words with their synonyms but still, when compared to the original text, the changed version is very much like the original one. However, writers like Marsh, Howard, Blum, Hayes, Wells and Chandrasoma argue that patch-writing should not be combined with plagiarism. These writers, along with other scholars’ review patchwriting as a strategy used to develop writing skills by non-native speakers to complete assignment on time. Borrowing inappropriately from the resources exhibit the struggle of a student to manage time and complete the assignment, eventually landing into unintentional plagiarism. According to Wells, “Time and again, students brought in hastily typed term papers, due the next period in the sociology, substance abuse, or history class, only for me to realize from the disjointed flow of thought and the awkward shifts in style that the paper was a case of patchwork plagiarism” (Wells 61). In support of patchwriting as an initial strategy to develop academic writing, Howard proposes that,
patchwriting should be viewed as positive and Nontransgressive because it is an attempt on the part of the writer to engage with the linguistic and discursive forms of particular disciplinary fields, as opposed to wholesale copying of entire paragraphs or texts without modification: it is a way of acknowledging that learning is taking place (Chandrasoma, et al 176).
In addition to this, Hayes put forward his thought that “patchwriting should be viewed as an inherent part of the teaching and learning process” (Hayes and Introna 229). Thus, collectively the experts want to claim that paraphrasing can be dangerous if done without the knowledge of how to use resources correctly as well as lack of basic knowledge of paraphrasing.
Intertextuality: According to Blum, the reason for intertextual activity within the college freshmen lies due to cultural and disciplinary differences. Blum claims that “Academic standards, which vary across disciplines and even more so across cultures, tend to be guided by the notions of creativity that are essentially individual” (Blum 5). In his article, Chandrasoma has given a very good example of academic transgression committed by an international student by providing a wrong format of reference list on the last page of her assignment. The student wrote:
“All the relevant information required to write this essay was entirely based on my personal experience, knowledge and imagination. The site referred [to] was the Site index of www.anz.com” (Chandrasoma, et al 183). This type of transgression with intertextuality has serious consequences which the non-native speakers fail to understand due to academic and cultural differences. Blum rightly states “If more than half of all students plagiarize, then there is clearly some cultural influence urging them to do so” (Blum 6).
Cultural and Academic differences: The aspect of cultural and academic difference is a generalized claim for potential plagiarism made by all the scholars examining the reasons for plagiarism amongst the college students, particularly in the international students. International students find the academic culture to be contrary to their own culture. As a result, students from countries like China and India are unable to form their own opinions or critically analyze someone else’s work. The fear of failure and of considerable pressure to achieve academic expectations lead them to plagiarize, intentionally or unintentionally. Because English is not their first language, it interferes with the academic development of the international students, and they feel the urge to look for better words to express themselves. Therefore, Hayes and Introna conclude that international students are “taking a bit here and there helps with getting meaning across. Paraphrasing, if you are not a native speaker, is difficult” (Hayes and Introna 221). Furthermore, most of the Eastern countries rely on memory test to grade a student. The academic culture in Eastern countries are based on memorization method of learning where most of the exams “will ask us to repeat definitions word-for-word from the textbook” (Hayes and Introna 222).
Thus, together scholars such as Hayes, Sutherland- Smith, Chandrasoma, Hennessey, Ashworth and Howard argue, their views on potential causes for plagiarism amongst international students and give their suggestions to prevent them.
- Ashworth Peter; Madeleine Freewood; Ranald MacDonald. “The Student Lifeworld and the Meanings of Plagiarism”. ISSN 0047-2662, 1569-1624. Journal of phenomenological psychology, 2003. Vol.34 (2), p. 257-278.
- Blum, Susan D. My Word! Plagiarism and College Culture. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2009.
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