April 2013
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DEFEATING DIGITAL PLAGIARISM AMONG INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS: FROM DETECTION TO PREVENTION
Nadia Esque, Laura Wyant, Marshall University, USA & Natalia Chernikova, Don State Technical University, Russia

ACADEMIC PLAGIARISM: THE PROBLEM

Globalization trends in education have resulted in a considerable increase of students seeking higher education abroad. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the number of students who chose to study overseas has tripled recently, increasing from 1.3 million in 2000 to 3.4 million in 2009 worldwide (UNESCO-UIS, 2012). However, the academic environment has done little to prepare for this diverse population of students. Likewise, multiple challenges faced by international students in foreign education systems (e.g., adaptation to a new culture, new teaching and learning styles, academic expectations) have strong potential to become barriers to the academic success of students. Plagiarism is one of the major impediments that faculty in higher education need to be concerned with when working with a diverse international student population.

Combating plagiarism, as with any other educational problem, starts with the understanding of its causes and methods. Because plagiarism is a social construct and a culturally embedded issue, there is no unity in its interpretation among individualistic and collectivistic cultures (Hayes & Introna, 2005). Therefore, students from collectivistic cultures might be simply unaware of the concept of intellectual property. In many cases, academic malpractice among international students is rooted in the learning approaches of each student's native culture, which can be based on memorization and direct repetition. Another issue for the international student is the limitation of foreign language proficiency and deficiency of linguistic and rhetorical skills, which are necessary for paraphrasing (Park, 2003). Finally, free access to electronic sources on the internet and simple downloading, copying, and pasting features significantly increase and complicate this problem of intentional or unintentional academic dishonesty among international students.

Technological Detection

In response to digital plagiarism, multiple technology-based detection programs have been developed to assist in the detection and prevention of this issue. Glatt Plagiarism Services and Turnitin are the most widely known in the U.S. academic environment. Even though anti-plagiarism technology has a high capability for text analysis and authenticity validation, it has numerous technical limitations. For example, it does not have all Internet sources in its database, and it is based on formal word recognition with no capability of tracking accuracy of paraphrasing or referencing. Finally, it is not able to develop ethical respect for intellectual property of individuals (Batane, 2010). Use of technology-based detection programs is not required but strongly recommended in an academic environment, and many instructors do use this type of detection. In our practice, we not only require submitting the assignments to Turnitin, but prior to submission, we demonstrate to students the potential of this program to validate authenticity of the text and provide a detailed report using a demo assignment. This technique has proven to be effective because students who are aware of this monitoring practice are less inclined to plagiarize. The results of this observation have also been supported by a study on the role of technology in reduction of plagiarism among students (Martin, 2005). However, in many cases students focus on putting more effort into cheating anti-plagiarism programs than in developing their authentic thoughts. How is this possible? Ask Google and you will get about 48,000 results, and Bing could offer you as many as 239,000 solutions on how, for example, to cheat Turnitin. It is clear that even though detection software can assist the academic environment in making plagiarizing more difficult for students, it cannot be used as a single tool for eliminating this problem.

PREVENTIVE STRATEGIES

A shift from detection to prevention is strongly encouraged in numerous publications on the issue of plagiarism (Arkoudis, 2006). The aforementioned causes of plagiarizing among international students imply that prevention efforts should be focused on educating students about plagiarism and ethical and legal issues related to it, training students in paraphrasing and citing techniques, and constructing assignments that are more difficult for plagiarizing. The following preventive strategies offered by experts have been successfully implemented in our teaching practice to combat the problem of digital cheating among international students.

Workshops on Plagiarism

Early in the semester, most academic programs and courses provide an orientation for international students on the issue of plagiarism through either special instructions or a syllabus. In most cases, such instruction is formal and not very efficient because it does not provide hands-on training on how to avoid plagiarism. If you are from a country where the use of someone else’s words and ideas is viewed as an honor, then learning that this is considered plagiarism is a huge paradigm shift for most students. Moreover, at the beginning of the semester, international students are overwhelmed with the academic and administrative flow of information and might not take this issue seriously. To provide extensive training and reinforcement, a special workshop should be available throughout the semester in multiple sessions. The emphasis of the training in this workshop should be on the recognition of plagiarism in its various types, the development of ethical respect for other people’s work, and the understanding of the legal consequences for not doing it, as well as training in citing techniques. Many universities offer such workshops through their library services, and instructors should strongly consider including them in the requirements of their courses.

Incorporating Paraphrasing Practice/Training in Course Work

Instructors should provide students with examples of correct referencing styles that will be appropriate for the given assignments. In addition, presentation of examples from previous assignments is an effective technique for demonstrating how ideas could be presented and sources are referenced in the given discipline. Furthermore, training students in paraphrasing and monitoring its accuracy could be performed by means of paraphrasing note cards used in the study by Walker (2005). The information on the cards is divided into two columns. In the left column, students are asked to write a reference in the specific style and direct quote. In the right column, students are assigned to paraphrase the information from the left column. These cards could also be used as part of a research project and be requred to be submitted with the research draft.

Modeling the Use of Referencing in Presentations in Class

Modeling and emphasizing proper referencing in class corresponds with the social learning theory and its viewing of learning through modeling (Batane, 2010). This technique suggested by Arkoudis (2006) has a strong potential to change previously acquired behavior while setting expectations for students on how to do things right.

Assigning Research Papers in Parts/Portfolio Assignments

The use of a portfolio allows students working on an assignment to move forward in a logical, organized fashion and gives instructors the ability to track the development of assignments in stages through the documentation in the portfolio. In addition, breaking a major research project into segments provides sufficient opportunities for students and instructors to detect and address possible issues related to plagiarism and reduce chances of student procrastination, which is named as one of many other reasons for copying and pasting (Park, 2003). For smaller assignments, graphic organizers could be used not only to facilitate the generation and organization of ideas but also to track these processes. They help in monitoring a student's personal involvement with the assignment during early stages of its development and reduce cases of plagiarizing large segments or entire texts.

Constructing Creative Assignments

Authentic assignments require a creative approach in their design stages by instructors and critical thinking in completion by students. Topics for creative assignments might require building on personal experience or be situationally specific. For example, this writing topic is too trivial or general and could lead to plagiarism: A person who made a difference. A better, more specific and personal topic is A person who made a difference in my life. A course that deals with learning styles may require students to develop their own theory of how individuals learn. This would require critical thinking, analysis, and synthesization of existing knowledge to develop a new concept. This assignment would not lend itself to plagiarism because that could easily be checked. Another example of a creative assignment would be to require students to document and analyze the work day of someone who is a professional in their field of study.

Assignments Requiring the Use of Specific Source Material

Assigning students to develop a project based on specified sources, the content of which is well known to the instructor, would reduce misuse of that content by students in their writing (“Preventing Plagiarism in Research Papers,” 2004). When giving the assignment to the class, the instructor provides a list of sources that must be used to complete the assignment. This technique can also assist students in developing critical paraphrasing skills.

Incorporating Information from Assignments into Class Discussions and Tests

This is another technique offered to monitor source information comprehension and referencing while motivating students to work diligently with their sources and preventing bold copying and pasting of segments of information (“Preventing Plagiarism in Research Papers,” 2004). For example, an instructor might ask students in a group to discuss and analyze the facts from their sources that provide a support for their claim.

Requiring Students to Submit Printouts of Source Materials

In an effort to be able to more easily track the accuracy of paraphrasing in student writing, instructors might require students to attach to their draft hard copies of their sources with highlighted cited passages (“Preventing Plagiarism in Research Papers,” 2004). This is a productive technique that encourages students to organize their source material, analyze it throughly, and cite it correctely.

CONCLUSION

Cultural understanding of the problem of plagiarism and positive strategies of dealing with it should be important aspects of training and professional development programs for English language teachers. In addition, in order to be prepared to work with a new diverse population of international students, all instructors in higher education could benefit from understanding the causes of the problem and enriching their expertise with the proactive strategies of its prevention. Awareness of the such strategies and their utilization could also help instructors around the world prepare students to meet the challenges of a global education and a global workforce environment.

References

Arkoudis, S. (2006). Teaching international students: Strategies to enhance learning. Melbourne, Australia: University of Melbourne, Centre for the Study of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.cshe.unimelb.edu.au/resources_teach/teaching_in_practice/docs/international.pdf

Batane, T. (2010). Turning to Turnitin to fight plagiarism among university students. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 13(2), 1–12.

Hayes, N., & Introna, L. D. (2005). Cultural values, plagiarism, and fairness: When plagiarism gets in the way of learning. Ethics & Behavior, 15, 213–231.

Martin, D. F. (2005). Plagiarism and technology: A tool for coping with plagiarism. Journal of Education for Business, 80(3), 149–152.

Park, C. (2003). In other people’s words: Plagiarism by university students—Literature and lessons. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 28, 471–488.

Preventing plagiarism in research papers. (2004). Change, 36(3), 18–20.

UNESCO-UIS. (2012). New patterns in student mobility in the Southern Africa Development Community (UIS Information Bulletin #7). Retrieved from http://www.uis.unesco.org/Education/Documents/ib7-student-mobility-africa-2012-v4-en.pdf


Nadia Esque received her PhD in Linguistics and MA in TESOL from Rostov State Pedagogical University, in Russia, and her EdS in adult education from Marshall University, in the United States. She has been teaching in higher education in Russia and in the United States for over 10 years. As a faculty member of Marshall University, she has developed a curriculum for the TEFL graduate program, participated in multiple grant writings, and designed and administrated a community service program, English for Life Skills and Occupational Purposes. She is currently a professor in the English Department of the College of Liberal Arts at Marshall University. Her academic interests are TESOL, composition, functional linguistics, and adult education.

Laura Wyant, PhD, has been a professor at Marshall University, in Huntington, West Virginia, for the past 30 years. She has had the privilege of working with a vast number of international students. As advisor to the Teaching English as a Second Language major for 7 years, she has experienced interaction with international students on a variety of levels. She has served as advisor, instructor, mentor, practicum supervisor, counselor, and so on. She has also been involved with the Adult Education Program, Training and Development Program, and is currently a faculty member in Leadership Studies. In her many years at Marshall University, she has had the pleasure of visiting 16 countries and immersing herself in their cultures. These experiences have provided her with a distinct perspective on international education.

Natalia Chernikova has a PhD in education and has been teaching for South Federal University and Don State Technical University, in Russia, for the past 11 years. She has taught courses in education and EFL for the students of the Social Work Department, the Department of Management, and the Technical Department. Being a professor at South Federal University, she visited the University of Bologna, in Italy, to study the European experience in ensuring compatibility in the standards and quality of higher education. She is interested in the trends of globalization in higher education and issues of cross-cultural communication in foreign language learning.

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