Skills Deficit or Intentional Plagiarism?
Our recent blog post discusses the thorny question of intentional vs inadvertent plagiarism. As educators we always want to look on the bright side, and we naturally have a very positive outlook, so, when it comes to breaches of academic integrity we want to assume that any misconduct has been inadvertent, and simply as a result of an issue with comprehension, reading ability, paraphrasing or some other, easily rectifiable skills deficit. However, in a small number of instances, alarm bells ring, sadly indicating a deliberate attempt to commit misconduct.
In your experience, what proportion of misconduct is intentional, and what proportion is as a result of a skills deficit of some kind? And what are some of the tell-tale signs that can signal possible misconduct?
Intentional plagiarism is usually easy to spot. As is assignment spinning. We can see it where the student thinks the risk is equal to the punishment. Where the punishment is less than the risk and the pressure to achieve is at all other cost, then it may be a risk they are willing to take. Unintentional plagiarism usually ends up being because the student didn't really understand what they have read and hence cannot write it in their own words. Or they do not have enough understanding of the scholarly values we are seeking. In a world where people are sharing memes, quotes without attribution, one of the most important roles we can play is to show our students why the source maters and should be cited.
In our institution, we had a doctorate candidate who expanded her published paper into a full blown dissertation, the similarity check was amusing as her name was on it, I gave her the originality report or similarity result.
At the point, she admitted it, good for her that her situation pulled the envelop; some of my colleagues believed it was right while other raised the ethical soundness of such act.
The end result was a recalibration of University policy to address this issue. the erring student graduated.