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Plagiarism, as defined in the 1995 Random House Compact Unabridged Dictionary, is the "use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work." Within academia, plagiarism by students, professors, or researchers is considered academic dishonesty or academic fraud and offenders are subject to academic censure, up to and including expulsion. In journalism, plagiarism is considered a breach of journalistic ethics, and reporters caught plagiarizing typically face disciplinary measures ranging from suspension to termination. Some individuals caught plagiarizing in academic or journalistic contexts claim that they plagiarized unintentionally, by failing to include quotations or give the appropriate citation.
While plagiarism in scholarship and journalism has a centuries-old history, the development of the Internet, where articles appear as electronic text, has made the physical act of copying the work of others much easier, simply by copying and pasting text from one web page to another. Plagiarism involves using someone else's words or ideas without giving proper credit (or without giving any credit at all) to the author of the original. The term comes from the Latin plagiaries and originally had to do with kidnapping. It is defined by Alexander Lindley in his Plagiarism and Originality (1952) as 'the false assumption of authorship: the wrongful act of taking the product of another person's mind, and presenting it as one's own.'
In academic writing, therefore, if you take phrases, a whole sentence, sentences or entire paragraphs from the work of another, and then present them in an unaltered or virtually unaltered state as if they were your own work, you are engaging in plagiarism. Plagiarism may take the form not only of repeating another's sentences, or adopting a particularly apt phrase, as your own. It can also involve paraphrasing someone else's argument as your own. Defined in such broad terms, it might seem that in academic writing it's difficult not to plagiarise. In preparing essays, presentations and reports, after all, one is encouraged, indeed expected, to go to other sources for information, ideas and arguments.
Few of us are born, or enter upon a course of academic study, with innate knowledge of, say, T.S. Eliot's use of mythology in The Waste Land, the politics of the women's suffrage struggle in the United States, or possible explanations for the Great Vowel Shift. Of necessity, therefore, students and academics in practice regularly draw on the work, and even the words, of others as a normal, even essential, part of their scholarly work. But drawing on the work of others is not automatically plagiarism. At the same time, when it comes to producing written material it is vital that the work of others is drawn on in an acceptable fashion, that it issued but not abused, and that -- as this brief guide seeks to show --plagiarism is thereby avoided.
If a member of staff suspects that an essay writing company has been used or that unfair practice has occurred in relation to work submitted as a piece of coursework, or any work completed under non examination conditions, he/she shall report the matter in writing to the Chair of the relevant Examining Board, normally within five working days. The Chair of the Examining Board shall first decide whether there is a prima facie case for treating the matter as a case of unfair practice by referring to Documentation. The Chair may also consult with the relevant external Examiner. Relevant means of arriving at such a decision may be employed, for instance through the use of plagiarism detection software. If the Chair of the Examining Board believes that a prima facie case exists, the Chair shall inform the Head of Department, who will inform the Superintendent of Examinations.
Where the allegation concerns alleged unfair practice in work and totalling 20 credits or fewer, in any one specific module completed under non-examination conditions, the case shall be determined by the Chair of the Examining Board acting in consultation with the relevant external examiner(s). The Chair of the Examining Board may impose one or more of the following penalties:
(a) A formal Written Reprimand
(b) A requirement to participate in special academic counselling
(c) A reduction in the marks recorded for the module concerned
(d) The award of a mark of zero for the module concerned with no further reset attempt.
The Chair of the Examining Board shall inform the student in writing of the penalty (or penalties) and shall also notify the Superintendent of Examinations, who shall inform any other Departments involved in teaching this student. If further allegations of unfair practice completed under non-examination conditions is made by the same Department or any other Department against the student in any other module (whatever the number of credits that may be involved), the matter shall be reported to the Registrar and Secretary for referral to a Committee of Inquiry in accordance with paragraph 17 below. If the Chair of the Examining Board concludes that there is no prima facie case to answer, the candidate and the Superintendent of Examinations shall be so informed in writing and that the matter is now closed.
'Speaker: Andy Lloyd, Una Jones'
Unfair Practice, Plagiarism and International Students' Essay Writing
This event was held as part of the ongoing support made available to academic schools to support consistent application of the Unfair Practice Procedure, and to share practice in the use of plagiarism detection tools and strategies that help avoid plagiarism. The event was divided into the three elements below:
A summary of the use made of the Unfair Practice Procedure, and a chance to discuss issues arising from this;
Discussion of the use made of Turnitin and the online tools that can help raise awareness of plagiarism;
A short presentation by three International Students on the different approaches to study they have encountered before entering UK higher education.
1) The Unfair Practice Procedure
A summary of the cases considered by the University Committee of Enquiry was presented, along with the available data on the cases considered within schools, and comments made by External Examiners on this issue. Small group discussion followed between participants, which led a number of issues being identified that relate to the Committee of Enquiry. These included the view of some schools that the Committee has been overly lenient in some cases, and that the procedures used by the Committee remain very stressful to staff involved. It was noted that this has resulted in some schools being unwilling to utilise the procedure.
2) Prevention and Detection Tools
A brief demonstration was given of a range of online tools that are available to support Cardiff students in this area, including the 'Student Guide to Academic Integrity', 'Plagiarism Learning Objects within the Information Literacy Resource Bank', and the 'Plagiarism and How to Avoid it' tutorial now available through Blackboard. This was followed by discussion of the increased use that is being made of the Turnitin plagiarism detection software, and of the issues that surround its use. Points arising from this discussion included the need to be aware of possible increases in assessment-related administration, and the potential value of the tool to support formative assessments.
3) The View of International Students
Following a summary of the study practices that international students have admitted to, the final part of the workshop saw three international students offer their perspective on the different cultural and study traditions that exist in the UK compared with their home countries, and the differing expectations of their current schools and support mechanisms available. The views provided echo the recent research findings, which have highlighted the range of different challenges that international students face in this area. These include traditions that focus on a cultural worldview where respect for betters and elders is paramount, an emphasis on rote learning, and a focus on multiple choice questions and examinations that rely on memory. The event concluded by noting that learning to operate within western academic conventions, for international students, is akin to learning a new language.
Unfair practice in a formal examination: initial stages
When it is considered or suspected that a candidate is engaging in unfair practice, the candidate shall be informed, preferably in the presence of a witness, that the circumstances will be reported. The candidate shall, however, be allowed to continue the examination and any subsequent examination(s) without prejudice to any decision that may be taken. Failure to give such a warning shall not, however, prejudice subsequent proceedings.
When appropriate, the invigilator shall confiscate and retain evidence relating to any alleged unfair examination practice, so that it is available to any subsequent investigation. The invigilator shall as soon as possible report the circumstances in writing, with any evidence retained, to the Superintendent of Examinations, who shall in turn inform the Chair of the relevant Examining Board.
In the case of a test contributing to the final module result, which is conducted under the aegis of the department, the invigilator shall report to the Chair of the Examining Board, who in turn shall report to the Superintendent
Suspected unfair practice detected during or after the marking period
An internal or external examiner or any other person who, whether during the marking period or subsequently, considers or suspects that a candidate has engaged in an unfair practice, shall report the matter in writing to the Chair of the relevant Examining Board as soon as possible. The Chair shall retain any relevant evidence and shall forthwith report the matter in writing to the Superintendent of Examinations. The Superintendent of Examinations shall then take the action prescribed below.
Further action to be taken by the Superintendent of Examinations
On receipt of a report concerning an allegation of unfair practice, the Superintendent of Examinations shall discuss the matter with the Chair of the relevant Examining Board to determine whether, in the light of all the circumstances, a prima facie case has been established.
If it is decided that no further action against the candidate should be taken, the Chair of the relevant Examining Board shall, where appropriate, inform the candidate in writing that the matter is closed.
If satisfied that such a case exists, the Superintendent shall report the case in writing to the Registrar and shall send to him/her copies of any relevant supporting evidence. The procedure shown shall then operate as described.
The Registrar shall inform the candidate in writing of the allegation, and that a Committee of Inquiry will be constituted to consider the case. The candidate's attention shall be drawn to the Academic Regulation on Unfair Practice.
Acceptance of reuse in some disciplines
In some academic disciplines, verbatim reuse of previously published material is generally avoided but is accepted practice under certain circumstances. Conference papers that receive limited distribution are often converted into journal articles or chapters in books, and journal articles are often recycled into chapters in books. Ideas in one journal article are often developed further in subsequent articles by the same author. Doctoral dissertations are frequently republished as books after revision. Material in one book is often reused in another book by the same author, often with different publishers. Legitimate exceptions to the general norm are numerous, based on the purposes of development and dissemination of knowledge. It is especially important where public safety may be at risk if a single paper is not reaching a wide enough audience, for example in product liability.
The American Political Science Association (APSA) has published a code of ethics which describes plagiarism as "deliberate appropriation of the works of others represented as one's own." It does not make any reference to self-plagiarism. It does say that when a doctoral dissertation is published as a book, the author is "not ordinarily under an ethical obligation to acknowledge its origins." This indicates that some reuse of one's previous published work is accepted practice in the discipline of Political Science, and does not automatically raise ethical questions.
The American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) has published a code of ethics which says its members are committed to: "Ensure that others receive credit for their work and contributions," but it does not make any reference to self-plagiarism.
Pamela Samuelson in 1994 identified several factors which excuse reuse of one's previously published work without the culpability of self-plagiarism. She relates each of these factors specifically to the ethical issue of self-plagiarism, as distinct from the legal issue of fair use of copyright, which she deals with separately. A review of the literature reveals her discussion of self-plagiarism is probably the most cogent and well-reasoned treatment of the few that are in print.
Among other factors which may excuse reuse of previously published material Samuelson lists the following:
The previous work needs to be restated in order to lay the groundwork for the contribution in the second work.
The previous work needs to be restated in order to lay the groundwork for a new contribution in the second work.
Portions of the previous work must be repeated in order to deal with new evidence or arguments.
The audience for each work is so different that publishing the same work in different places was necessary to get the message out.
The author thinks he or she said it so well the first time that it makes no sense to say it differently a second time.
These factors constitute compelling reasons for reuse of previously published materials in the specified circumstances as exceptions to a general practice of avoiding reuse.
Samuelson states she has relied on the "different audience" rationale when attempting to bridge interdisciplinary communities. She refers to writing for different legal and technical communities, saying: "there are often paragraphs or sequences of paragraphs that can be bodily lifted from one article to the other. And, in truth, I lift them." She refers to her own practice of converting "a technical article into a law review article with relatively few changes--adding footnotes and one substantive section" for a different audience.
Samuelson describes misrepresentation as the basis of self-plagiarism. She seems less concerned about reuse of descriptive materials than ideas and analytical content. She also states "Although it seems not to have been raised in any of the self-plagiarism cases, copyrights law's fair use defense would likely provide a shield against many potential publisher claims of copyright infringement against authors who reused portions of their previous works."
5. 'Speaker: Andy Lloyd, Una Jones'