Students And Academic Writing English Language Essay

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Referencing is inseparable in the academic writing which requires the students to, not just present and describe ideas, but to be aware of where they came from. However, it often leads to the students plagiarising when it does not follow the standard referencing conventions accepted in their academic discipline. In spite of the fact that most academic institutions have taught the referencing conventions to support their writing skills, problems in referencing are still found to be the reason for plagiarising (Park, 2003; Juwah, Lal, & Beloucif, 2006)

Several findings show that most higher education have a problem with referencing practices (JISC, 2005). CAVAL (as cited in JISC, 2005), a university library in Australia found that 8.8% from 1.770 students' work of five higher educations over a range of disciplines contained more than 25% of unattributed material. A study (McCabe, Trevino, & Butterfield, 2001) in Rutger University also found that nearly 40 percent of 800.000 higher educations from 23 higher education admitted to plagiarize term papers by copying and pasting the material from the Internet. Another study, by Dennis (as cited in Neville, 2007), of 80 undergraduate and postgraduate on Computer Science students also admitted to copy-paste material from a website without crediting the source.

Looking for the reasons underlying students' problem in referencing practices, the experts has stated their own view toward it. Wilhoit (1994, p. 162) said that most students enter the higher education without fully understanding the relationship between plagiarism and the accepted referencing convention. While Wilhoit implied on the lacks of experiences and chances of writing academic practices in the students' previous educational institution, Vessal & Habibzadeh (2007) added especially for students whom English is a foreign language, they may do plagiarism for lack of awareness and linguistic assistances. Since they have a challenge to think in another language when conveying the message, they may be tempted to copy a passage from English to their language. Jude Carroll (2005, p. 1), the course leader of Oxford Brookes University claimed that the problems can also caused by the complexity of academic writing of referencing:

I have been writing for an academic audience for years yet cannot be sure what to reference. How must it be for our students who are just beginning their understanding of the complexities of academic writing, of referencing and showing it is your own work?

While Hansen and McIntire (1994) believed that pressures to get good marks in writing have lead students to cite and reference inaccurately. McCall (2006) added that pressure is also used by some students as blame to copy-paste:

"We're expected to cite as many references as possible to gain maximum marks but keep our word limit to 1500. Well, it is almost impossible to use so many references as well as our own words, without it looking like a copy-and-paste job."

In fact, referencing is not primarily to avoid plagiarism; it has many functions in the academic writing as Hunt (2002) pointed out:

Scholars - writers generally - use citations for many things: they establish their own bona fides and currency, they advertise their allegiances, they bring the work of others to the attention of their readers, they assert ties of collegiality, they exemplify contending positions or define nuances of difference among competing theories or ideas …

Since the line between poor referencing and plagiarism is very thin, it is regretted if misuse or misunderstanding of referencing coventions is used as an excuse to do plagiarism.

Several studies have been undertaken to investigate the extent of student understanding toward plagiarism and the citation practices underlying it, however there is a very limited study undertaken in EFL students, specifically in Indonesian setting as Imam Santosa (2010) and Putri Handayani (2010) did among English Department students at State University of Jakarta. It is interesting to note that the difficulties of EFL students have in writing, not only grammar and discourse structures but also in the ways they cite the information. However, further studies needs to be undertaken to determine the actual extent of students understanding of referencing practices in avoiding plagiarism and what can be done by the lectures and the institution to discourage it. Relevance to this, the following study attempts to investigate to what extent final year students understanding at English Department of State University of Jakarta toward referencing practices as an approach to avoid the issue of plagiarism.

Identification of Problems

Referred to the background above, some problems are identified as follows:

To what extent do final year English Department Students understand referencing practices properly?

Does their understanding match with their perceptions and attitudes toward referencing practices?

What are the reasons underlying their attitudes and perceptions?

Research questions

Based on the problems identification above, the study only focuses on "To what extent do final year English Department Students understand referencing practices?"


In order to limit the scope, the study will focus on the results of the study: the final year English Department students' understanding toward referencing practices in avoiding plagiarism. Then, the findings can not be used as a representation of English Department Students in general.

Purpose of the study

To find out to what extent final year English Department students understanding toward referencing practices.

Significance of the study

Firstly, the study can help the writer to have more understanding of the referencing conventions in the writer's discipline and so do the others who may read this thesis. Second, it also provides the opportunity for all the stakeholders in the institution where the study is conducted to take the best decisions regarding the results, thereby it is hoped to potentially reduce the plagiarism issue.



This chapter will first look at the some previous related studies on referencing practices. It then explores the concept of plagiarism in the academic context by discussing the definition, the reasons, the forms and the way avoiding it. Finally, it presents the referencing conventions which are possibly used in English Department.

Previous Related Studies on Students' Understanding toward Referencing Practices

There have been several studies relating with the students' understanding toward the referencing practices in various places and fields.

In the State University of Jakarta where the study conducts, a study of Putri Handayani (2010) about "consistency of referencing in English Department students' skripsi" showed that from 2.716 references, 33% was considered as a low consistency since it doesn't suit to any referencing styles. It suggested that the unregulated standard referencing convention for academic writing in English Department and the lacks of experiences and chances of writing academic practices could be the possible reason underlying it.

Another study conducted in English Department by Imam Santosa (2010) demonstrated that 79.19% thesis graduated from 2006 to 2010 was considered as plagiarism. Looking for the reasons underlying it, it indicated that beside the poor time management skills, most students misused and misunderstood the referencing conventions used in their thesis, although some students do not admit it in the interview.

A : Jelaskan apa yang anda ketahui tentang paraphrase, citation, dan


B : Paraphrase: menuangkan ide orang lain dengan bahasa sendiri,

citation: sama kan

quoted: mengutip kutipan langsung

A : Apakah anda ragu dalam menentukan apakah kutipan anda

harus di paraphrase atau di quoted?

B : Saat itu tidak

A : Gaya penulisan apa yang anda pakai dalam mengutip di dalam

penelitian anda?

B : Saya lupa, MLA kayaknya deh

A : Apakah yang anda ketahui tentang gaya kutipan yang anda pakai

dalam mengutip sebuah sumber?

B : Yah sesuai dengan skripsi sebelumnya saja

A : Apakah anda yakin dengan cara anda mengutip sebuah sumber?


B : Bagaimana cara anda mengambil kutipan dari internet?

Copy paste, kasih tangal, sama linknya

A : Apakah anda menyaring kebenaran dari sebuah web yang anda


B : Tidak

(Santosa, 2010)

In University of Kristen Maranatha Indonesia, a study by Yugianingrum (2008) at the English Department concerning "citing behaviors in the thesis" also suggested that most of the thesis there contained poor citation or inappropriate citing behavior. Based on the writer's interpretion of the findings, it can be attributed by the students' lacks of experiences and chances of writing academic practices and the department's low of attention toward the appropriate citing practices.

Comparing to a similar study in Singapore, a study of Peter A. Todd, Darren C. J. Yeo, Daiqin Li and Richard J. Ladle (2007) examining the appropriateness and accuracy of citations employed in ecology showed that from 306 papers, the citation which "clearly supported" is 76.1%; the citation which "ambiguous" is 11.1%; and the citation which did "not support" the original statement is 7.2%. The remaining 5.6% were classified as "empty".

Another study from physics and engineering concluded that 80% of the resources cited in the paper were not read by the students (Simkin & Roychowdhury, 2003). …

In Computer Science degree programmes, another study by Dennis (as cited in Neville, 2007), of 80 undergraduate and postgraduate students also found that 25% students admitted to do copying from book or internet sources without acknowledging the authors.

Finally, similar with the previous findings, a survey by Dordoy (2002) at Northumbria University, of 140 students suggested that 70.9% of students believed that it was a common practice for them to copy a few paragraphs from a written material or web-based material without citing the sources.

In short, several findings have shown misuse and misunderstanding of referencing practices are still being a problem for students of higher educations in various places and fields. They suggest the next steps to address the issue of plagiarism.

Defining Plagiarism

Because there is no single universally agreed, defining plagiarism is not always easy to be formed. It is clear that there are many different interpretations from one country to another on the practice of referencing in academic writing. What is unacceptable practice in Britain, for example, quoting from sources without referencing them, can be regarded as normal practices in other countries, even within Europe (Sherman, 1992). Then, it may helpful to see the definitions from some universities:

… is the act of representing as one's own original work the creative works of another, without appropriate acknowledgement of the author or source (University of Melbourne)

… is the theft of someone else's ideas and work. Whether a student copies verbatim or simply rephrases the ideas of another without properly acknowledging the source, the theft is the same (Harvard Extension School)

… is the copying or paraphrasing other's people work or ideas onto your own work without full acknowledgement (University of Oxford) 

Although in practice, there can be different interpretations of what it is included in plagiarism and what is not, the choice of written words is almost identical, common phrase "without acknowledgment" is found from those university perspectives. Thus, in general, plagiarism is a term used to describe a practice which involves taking another's work or ideas without acknowledgement. However, to avoid plagiarism, it is important that students are aware of their university's interpretation of plagiarism and the practical knowledge about how to acknowledge other works properly.

Forms of Plagiarism

After exploring the definition of plagiarism from the academic perspectives, it may helpful to note what is included in the term of plagiarism. Although plagiarism can take many forms, there are two major forms of plagiarism in the academic writing: "plagiarism of ideas" and "plagiarism of words" (Roig, 2003).

It is simply understood the definition of "plagiarism of ideas" given by Roig (2003) "Appropriating an idea in whole or in part, or with superficial modifications without giving credit to its originator". However, there has been a debate whether the ideas can be owned and thieved since it seems difficult to distinguish one idea with another, as well difficult to be detected. In some context, plagiarism of ideas may not exist, for example, in the cooperative learning when each members share their ideas to discuss something, the process of integrating one ideas to another's is regarded as a learning process rather than a thieving ideas.

Furthermore, students often get difficulty in determining whether the idea is an author's idea or a general knowledge (Anyanwu, 2004; Devlin & Gray, 2007). However, Pfeiffer (2000, p. 517) said when there is an unsure whether the material is common knowledge or not, it is better to simply cite it.

Rennie (Rennie, ...) also argued that plagiarism of ideas is more serious than incorrect attribution since the plagiarists sometimes simply paraphrase the authors' words and intentionally acknowledge it as their own rather than analyze all the literature and synthesize them into a new idea creatively. Finally, the attitudes toward plagiarism of ideas may be greatly depended on the context, culture and the accepted rules where the students live.

Another form of plagiarism, "plagiarism of words" is defined by Roig (2003, p. 7) as "copying a portion of text from another source without giving credit to its author". Both "plagiarism of ideas" and "plagiarism of words" constitute academic misconduct, but plagiarism of words is easier to detect and prove than plagiarism of ideas. It is often seen as the most common form of plagiarism because sometimes the borrowed words which too close with the original words are not quoted or simply left without cited (Roig, 2003, p. 8)

Plagiarism of words and ideas can occur in a variety of forms. As (Wilhoit, 1994) stated, they are:

"(1) Stealing material from another source and passing it off as their own, (2) Submitting a paper written by someone else, (3) Copying sections of material from one or more source texts, supplying proper documentation (including the full reference) but leaving out quotation marks, thus giving the impression that the material has been paraphrased rather than directly quoted. (4) Paraphrasing material from one or more source texts without supplying appropriate documentation."

From four forms of plagiarism above, Roig (2003) added one more form of plagiarism, that almost impossible to occur, self-plagiarism. When plagiarism is conseptualized as a theft, it is almost impossible to steal from oneself. However, Hexam (as cited in Roig, 2003) argued that self-plagiarism is possible to occur when the auhors reuse their previously written work without letting the reader know that that material is not new anymore. He added "… the essence of self-plagiarism is the author attempt to deceive the reader". Furthermore, although Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2001) does not contain the term "self‐plagiarism" within its section on the "Ethics of Scientific Publication", that section includes a term "Duplicate publication of data" (pp. 351‐354). Roig (2003) then suggested four types of self-plagiarism: "duplicate publication of a paper, partitioning of a large study into smaller studies, text recycling, and copyright infringement".

Although in practice, all forms of plagiarism above is quite similar, the penalties given is often different, depend on the measure of intent (..). Then, plagiarism is also classified into intentional or deliberate plagiarism and unintentional or accidental plagiarism.

Intentional or deliberate plagiarism appears when the students know that they submit or use someone's work. An example of intentional plagiarism can be submission of a term paper purchased from the Internet as original work. In the contrary, unintentional or accidental plagiarism occurs when students do not fully understand what documentation is and how to do it (Bauer and Moriyama, 2004). An example of unintentional plagiarism can be a failure to cite a source completely or accurately and a failure to quote. Although sometimes students who admit to plagiariaze unitentionally not always truly unintentional (Howard, 1995), meaning that it is only used as an excuse for students to be regarded as doing a minor plagiarism. Then, to determine the measure of intent, the deep inspections need to be held carefully.

Reasons Underlying Plagiarism

Understanding not just what plagiarism is, but why students plagiarize is necessary to address the issue of plagiarism effectively.

Plagiarism occurs for a variety of reasons. It may stem from intentional acts, perhaps due to pressure to succeed as Carroll (2002) claimed that the change from examination to project-based assessment has resulted not just "in over-assessment" but also "in students being under pressure" to attain high marks. This may logic if the teacher often gives them a number of different pieces of course work in the same submission dates that they can not accomplish.

The easily access to the information available in the internet can be also the reason why students plagiarize intentionally. The main cause of this is the assumption that the internet is a public domain and therefore, students think that information on the internet can be used freely without attribution (Groark, Oblinger & Choa, 2001).

However, not all plagiarism is attributed to the increased use of the Internet. In a Rutger's study of 4,500 students from twenty-five high schools, 54 percent had used the Internet to plagiarize. But the research also showed that the majority of those cheating would have plagiarized without the Internet. Only 6 percent of those who submitted plagiarized work had relied solely on the Internet (Branigan, 2001).

While plagarism occurs intentionally, it may be possible that students who are accused of plagiarism are not aware of all of the academic conventions they are expected to follow (Carroll, 2002; Howard, 2001, p.5). Although they claimed to understand academic conventions, they who claimed that understanding often demonstrated that they did not know how to attribute sources properly (Sutherland, 2005, Armstron, 2008, Santosa, 2010). There are many differences between disciplines on documentation guidelines (Ercegovac and Richardson, 2004). If these differences are not communicated clearly, students might not realize what the institutions' expectations.

Different understandings of academic conventions are also apparent with students who were educated in non-Western cultures. The belief that ideas and words can be owned by a person can be difficult for them to understand (Introna, 2001). In addition, it is common in many countries for students to write papers by simply copying large amounts of text from writings by experts in the field, if they write it in the references. In some countries, students are also not taught or expected to cite sources until they are in master or doctoral level courses (Nanda and Power, 2005).

In other cases, students understand and try to avoid plagiarism, but are not sufficiently skilled in writing (Howard, 2001). Some fail to take notes carefully, others fail to restate the material then leading to use too much of the original words, a practice referred as patchwriting.

Whatever the reasons, finally they cannot be excuses to legitimize plagiarism. Knowing from the statistics that plagiarism is increasing, the reasons above can expectantly help to address the issue of plagiarism.

Avoiding Plagiarism

Althought most of universities have taught how to avoid plagiarism in their academic writing courses, students seems do not internalize the courses until they have experienced themselves (Barrett & Malcolm, 2006). Then the discussion about avoiding plagiarism from some resources is needed to address the plagiarism issue.

WPA Council (2003) suggests avoiding plagiarism is a shared responsibility for all stakeholders within an institution (students, teachers and administrators). For students, it is needed for them to understand research assignment as their chance to develop their creative and critical thinking by analyzing what they are investigating, learning the accepted referencing convention, and consulting their instructors when they are unsure about what, when, and how to acknowledge another's works and ideas. For faculty, it is needed to design contexts and assignments for learning that encourage students not only to recycle information but to investigate and analyze its sources, teaching students the referencing conventions, engaging students in the process of writing, discussing the problems encountered by the students in analyzing and acknowledging the sources, and discussing papers suspected plagiarism with the students then reporting it to the right administrators. While for the administrators, it is a need to foster a program which supports the academic honesty by providing support services like writing centers or web pages to answer students' questions about how to cite the sources, supporting faculty and student discussions of issues concerning academic honesty, and providing opportunities for instructors to reflect on and, if appropriate, change the ways they work with writing in their courses.

While some other resources (Hacker, 2003, Rampolla, 2004, Guidelines of Catholic University of America, …, and Leary & Bent, 2007) discuss avoiding plagiarism only from the perspectives of the students. They suggest that in order to avoid plagiarism, the students need to use their own words and ideas, give credit for another's work or ideas they borrow, avoid paraphrasing another's then claim it as their own, notice some common knowledge which does not need to be cited, however when they are in doubt, it is better for them to cite it.

Thus, avoiding plagiarism which is done by all the stakeholders within an institution even within a country is needed to address the issue of plagiarism

Defining Referencing

Before exploring various referencing conventions which are most commonly used in the higher education, defining referencing is needed to get a complete understanding about referencing which finally can diminish students' plagiarism unintentionally due to lack of referencing skills.

Referencing which is also sometimes called as citation is defined by Reitz (2004, p.142) as:

"a written reference to a specific work or portion of a work (book, article, dissertation, report, musical composition, etc.) by a particular author, editor, composer, etc., that clearly identifies the document in which the work is to be found".

Then, referencing a source means to provide a reference for acknowledging a source of information.

However, the term "reference" is sometimes associated similarly with the term "bibliography". In fact, both terms is used differently. Reference refers to the item which read and cited in a written work, while bibliography refers to a list of everything read when writing a written work, whether or not it is cited. (Bradford Booklet). Therefore, bibliography contains sources which are included in the reference, while reference does not always contain sources which are included in the bibliography.

Types of Referencing Conventions

Referencing conventions vary mostly in the location, order, and composition of information referenced. The number and variation of referencing conventions reflect different priorities in a higher education institution with respect to concision, readability, dates, authors, publications, and, of course, conventions.

There are various referencing conventions which are used within higher education institutions. However, since in English Department where the study is conducted concerning on language education and arts, the discussion of referencing conventions is limited on APA and MLA convention as presented briefly below:

APA Convention

This is the standard used for writing in the social sciences, psychology, sociology, criminology, health sciences, business, economics, and education (Sparkcharts, 2004). The use of APA convention for in-text-citation and reference list which taken from Sparkcharts (2006) can be seen below:

In-text Citations

APA convention uses the author-date format for in-text citations.

One author

… the photoelectric effect (Einstein, 1906)

Einstein's description of the photo electric effect

In 1906, Einstein published a paper on the photoelectric effect.

Two to five authors

First use in a paper: Barrett, Waters, and Tang (1997) found …

First use in a paragraph after already used in a paper: Barrett et al. (1997) found …

Further uses within the same paragraph: Barrett et al. found …

Within parentheses, use an ampersand: … (Barrett, Waters, & Tang, 1997)

More than five authors

First use in a paper:

Zukckerman et al. (1987) found …

Further uses within the same paragraph:

Zuckerman et al. found …

If two or more papers would have the same abbreviation under APA rules (e.g., Einstein, Rush, and Oppenheimer, 1950, both would abbreiate to Einstein et al., 1950), provide as many names as are needed to distinguish between the papers:

Einstein, Rush, et al. (1950) and Einstein, Bohr, et al. (1950) found …

No author

Include the title and date:

… the book Pregnancy and Poverty (1979)

For articles or book chapters, put the title in double quotation marks:

… the study on health care ("America suffers," 1997)

If the writer is listed as "Anonymous", cite accordingly: (Anonymous, 1956)

Multiple works within the same citation

To cite two or more works by the same author, list the author's name once, followed by the dates of publication in chronological order:

… as has been shown (Hewlett 1989, 1993, 1994)

To cite different author, separate in the authors using semicolon and list them in the order in which the works appear in the reference list:

Seminal papers in physics (Einstein, 1905a, 1905b; Oppenheimer and Bohr, 1940; Teller, 1951)

To separate a major citation from other citations, list the primary source first, followed by a semicolon, then insert a "see also" before listing the remaining citations in alphabetical order:

Studies suggest (Strickley, 1997; see also Blake, 1955; Masters, 1986)


To cite two or more works published in a single year by the same authors, distinguish between them in the text and in references by adding a letter to the year:

If two authors cited have the last name, give their initials in all references:

A. J. Einstein and Wilson (1905) and J. C. Einstein and Hartley (1961) found …

Classical works

Classical works, such as the bible and Greek and Roman texts, need to be cited in the text but do not need to be included in the list at the end of the paper.

Translations of classical work need to be noted: (Plato, trans. 2001). Translations also need to be included in the reference list.

When citing specific sections of classical works, use line numbers, chapters, and so on instead of page numbers, which typically apply only to a single edition.

When citing a reprint of an older, indicate bothe the date of the original publication and the date of the reprint, separated by a slash: (Freud, 1901/ 1961)

Personal communication (such as email, letters, or conversations)

Cite in the text but do not include in the reference list: (J. M. Hamilton, personal communication, December 17, 2003)

Indirect references (works not referenced directly but discussed in a secondary source)

If the works did not learned directly but learned about in a book by Adamson, cite as follows: Jones's study (as cited in Adamson, 1994)

Include the secondary source (in above example, Adamson) in the reference list.

Works still in press

Rather than cite a predicted publicatin date, indicate that the work is still in press: (Horace, in press)