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Hiten, a student from India, came to UK for pursuing higher education... Masters in Business Administration from a college in London with dreams of success envisioned. He was told that he would need to work and earn to ensure that both ends meet while studying in UK. However within just a couple of days of joining college he immersed himself in to the process of getting a National Insurance number and other formalities related to securing a job. Securing a job became the prime focus for him and he started neglecting assignments. Finally he secured a job and then onwards focussing on studies became a routine second priority. Finally the submission deadline stared at him at point blank range and he had no other choice but to resort to unfair practices ...to ensure that he submit a so called perfect assignment from which he didn't benefit much ...nor did he contribute anything to. What Hiten did, is referred to as Plagiarism: An issue that most educational institutions are grappled with in recent times. Plagiarism, one of the many forms of unfair practices, in common terms, refers to the copying text or taking someone else's ideas to document them as one's own.
Plagiarism and other unfair practices are indeed a growing problem within the international students because of the kind of trends noticed in recent times. Although this is not a new issue, universities have observed a sharp increase in the number of incidents categorised as "Unfair Practices" especially with the international students. The availability of internet and other resources whether electronic or other forms like newspapers, journals, magazines, books and simply co-students' work is causing more damage than the anticipated welfare of students who access them for studying. This essay attempts at understanding the problems related to plagiarism and other unfair practices in reference to international students who use technology and internet to commit plagiarism in a variety of ways.
Introduction to Plagiarism:
Hiten is just one of the many students who has exhibited one of the many unfair practices followed widely by international students, knowingly or unknowingly. Unfair practices encapsulate when...
Hiten, instead of submitting his ideas, would hire a professional researcher who guarantees a plagiarism free report at a nominal price.
Hiten, knowingly or unknowingly borrows dissertations from ex-students of that course and paraphrases the content and submits it as his assignment.
Hiten collects inputs from many websites or reference material in libraries and collectively puts them in his paper to make a sound project.
Hiten takes up a complete paragraph instead of a line or two from a source and provides that as a quote along with full mention of the same in bibliography.
Hiten looks up the thesaurus and other dictionaries to search for synonyms, changes the structure of words to use them as self proposed.
Hiten submits a report after working with a group of students where they agree to present the same material in different words and techniques used in points 3, 4 & 5.
All these examples relate to the facts pointing towards the central theme of this essay: Unfair Practices. We now focus on the scope of the essay where we understand why this is problem not only for Hiten but for most international students... It's also for those students who feel that paraphrasing information would not be classified as paraphrasing. NO...As a thumb rule if we use 3 or more words in a sentence that are same as the original, then it's recommended that we either revise the sentence or use the exact quote (Research Methods, 8 Edition, Donald H McBurney, Theresa L White, Wadswordth Cengage Learning, USA 2007)
The Right Way:
Let's take a couple of examples to see how Hiten reference someone else's work...The Right Way:
Ex.1. The Original: Google began operations in China in 2006 to widespread criticism. While many argued Google was complicit in the censorship imposed by [the] Chinese government, Google insisted it was nevertheless serving the public interest even though it was furnishing censored results. Relations between China and Google cooled in January after what Google described as a sophisticated cyber attack in which the webmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists were targeted.
Source: BBC News, 12 March 2010, China warns Google to comply with censorship laws, [Online], Available from URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8564822.stm, [Accessed 12 March 2010]
The Reference: According the BBC News, China reacted critically to Google Operations opening in their country in 2006 as many argued that Google results were not complying with the censorship laws imposed by the Chinese government. However relations between them cooled down in January post a 'sophisticated cyber attack' as referred to by Google, where Chinese Human Rights activists' webmail accounts were targeted.
Source: Source: BBC News, 12 March 2010, China warns Google to comply with censorship laws, [Online], Available from URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8564822.stm, [Accessed 12 March 2010]
Ex.2. The Original: Modern communication technology is driving workers in the corporate world to distraction. They feel buried under the large number of messages they receive daily. In addition to telephone calls, office workers receive dozens of emails and voice mail messages daily. In one company, in fact, managers receive an average of 100 messages a day. Because they do not have enough time to respond to these messages during office hours, it is common for them to do so in the evenings or at weekends at home.
Source: University of Portsmouth, 2008, Academic Writing Skills, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth - p.18)
The Reference: An article on Academic Writing Skills in 2008 by University of Portsmouth, informs that corporate professionals are being distracted by modern communication technology with large number of phone calls, emails, messages and voice mails every day. Due to their busy office schedules, they mostly have to respond these messages either post office in the evenings or during weekends.
Source: University of Portsmouth, 2008, Academic Writing Skills, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth - p.18)
Plagiarism & the International Student
When we refer to the word 'INTERNATIONAL' student, we mainly refer to students who are not from UK because the reference to the word International is for students who are coming from other countries (Like India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan to mention a few) to the UK for pursuing higher education. Primarily, not all of them resort to unfair practices with an evil intention. For them, information gathering from the internet and other sources like the public library, for use in college projects was, in fact, encouraged at the bachelor's levels in their respective countries. I'm an international student myself who came from India to study in UK and I clearly remember that, during my 2nd year of bachelor's degree, I was encouraged by my professor to search in google.com, a search engine that had newly hit the internet and was popular across the academic circles. I had very little exposure to the internet in the first place; leave alone the wide availability of information on the internet. So I promptly, obeying my professor, logged on to the internet, access random information from related sites and copy them on to a text editor to present the final draft while carefully checking for linkages. That's it...My project on 'Artificial Intelligence' was ready!!! Needless to say, apart from the appreciation for first submission, I ended up with very good marks as well. Thus there are number of factors that lead to international students ending up submitting their assignments through unfair practices... The scenarios could be of two types... Students who do it knowingly and others who end up doing it unknowingly...
Time Management and Planning: Some students plainly lack appropriate planning and time management skills which can help them prioritize their jobs. They feel they can do it anytime and postpone the assignment till the 11'th hour and when it's the final day they run pillar to post to find everyone else either as confused as them or too busy to help them. Further, many come here with the help of a study loan for which their parents or sponsors are paying monthly interest. Hence priority is getting a job to support them and thereby share the financial burden. This attitude can damage their study plans as they hardly get time for attending college leave alone completing their assignments on time. Such times, they have no other option but to resort to unfair practices.
Fear of bad grades: Certain students who have enough time at their disposal still resort to unfair practices because of the fear of bad grades and possibly due to low self esteem. They feel that their work, no matter how good it may be, would not suffice and there are better reports out there on the internet where they can conveniently copy it from. They are what Colin Beard & John Wilson categorized as 'Reflectors' in their book 'Experiential Learning' while explaining the learning cycles of people. Reflectors are generally excessively thoughtful, cautious and tend to reserve judgements during social gatherings or meetings because they are not sure of their conclusions and cannot voice them out freely.
Social Loafing in Group Discussions: Don't get confused by the sound of that literary word because 'Social loafing describes the tendency of individuals to put forth less effort when they are part of a group', (http://psychology.about.com/od/sindex/g/socialloafing.htm) certain students are just plain lazy. They would want best returns with the lowest of investment. Can be called as parasites in social terms as well due to their dependency on the group's efforts to claim as their own. They may be capable of it but still don't contribute as much to the group and only try to assimilate as much as possible rather than share or contribute.
Relevance of assignments to their expectations: An unusual case maybe but this is through personal experience: There was a time I was given an assignment by our professor while teaching us Organizational Behaviour (Distance Education Course: E-MBA) at North Eastern University, Boston, USA. Since this was Distance Education MBA sponsored by my organization, IBM India, we were shipped DVDs of the movie '12 Angry Men' to better understand the psychological behaviour of 12 men serving as a jury for a court scenario. Our assignment was to write about the overall movie relating it to the topics of 'Group Behaviour in Organizations'. However, not being a very good movie buff, I decided to just wrap up the assignment by copying the excerpts from various critical reviews of the movie from the internet. I protest in my favour that I normally don't resort to unfair practices but that assignment was just one of the few examples where I just didn't want to do it.
Collusion: Probably one of the worst of all unfair practices, collusion in simple terms refers to 'secret agreement or cooperation especially for an illegal or deceitful purpose' as mentioned in Merriam Webster online dictionary (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/collusion). Explaining collusion in the practical sense, we may have a couple of students in the class planning to rob an assignment material from another student, say Hiten, who has been probably completed the assignment. So one of them successfully diverts the attention of Hiten so that the other could take it away on a pen-drive from his computer. It's Possible!!! But seriously, about 90 % of the students feel that they can get away with unfair practices either because they believe they can't get caught or the punishment if they were caught is not disciplined enough (http://www.plagiarism.org/plag_facts.html)
Easy Availability of Essays: Another popular fact due to which most students refer to unfair practices are the widespread availability of essays in electronic and paper forms across the internet and library respectively. The common mentality is 'if something is readily available, why work for it' and with this while a student can't go far, they would still resort to it. Probably one of the root causes for this attitude is the fact that most international students have only been exposed to the framework of studying for the exams only. They don't prefer going beyond the window of their prescribed textbook or worse ...their class notes. So if they haven't read about the topic they won't be able to critically write about it and thereby resort to something that is alternatively available ...for free
Thus we see that not all types of unfair practices are voluntary. Some of them could be involuntary and some of them seem to be forced upon them... from a sympathising point of view. Also we notice that many a time the perception of the student regarding unfair practices is different from that of teachers' or the universities' expectations.
Having thus explained the various issues regarding unfair practices we certainly see that they are a major problem for international students which universities have been trying to resolve to ensure academic integrity. Most universities already implemented technology for detecting plagiarism. Software like 'turnitin' which is considered the best across the lot has already been replicated across many educational institutions. We see various websites dedicated to the cause of which the most popular being www.plagiarism.org & www.PlagiarismAdvice.org which are most recommended by universities.
Bottom-line is irrespective of whether the unfair practices were intentional or not, it doesn't make any sense for students to resort to unfair practices because no matter how THEY view it, at the end of the day, it's UNFAIR. And with the widespread awareness campaigns regarding unfair practices, international students can no longer hide behind the excuse of ignorance. They are only being myopic for getting through their assignments but don't realize that in the long run this investment of time into every assignment would take give them better edge to leap ahead of peers during the real test: A Management Career.