Plagiarism: Mischief-making, Poor Scholarship or Ignorance?

Rewind, 25-30 years ago, no global internet, no responsive search engines, no searchable databases and very few had access to learning materials, academic papers, thesis and textbooks. Then, if you had an assessment, you used a physical library, read old books and wrote assessments within the limitations of your educational environment and infrastructure. Fast forward to 2020, now we are all learning virtually, the internet is global, even in the most hard-to-reach areas and education is becoming universal.

One thing has not changed within that timeline; poor scholarship and sometimes mischief-making in the classroom/learning environment. This poor scholarship and mischief-making is the focus of this article today and is known as Plagiarism in education, academic and publishing settings.

Plagiarism has been defined as “presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement. All published and unpublished material, whether in manuscript, printed or electronic form, is covered under this definition.” University of Oxford (link)

plagiarism

Synonyms of plagiarism. Source (https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/plagiarism)

Plagiarism this phenomenon is almost as old as I can remember and is usually known by different terms depending on where you are in the world e.g. exam malpractice, cheating, dubbing, being smart etc. I first encountered this term during my first degree and I realised how serious this act is how severe the consequences can be. In some environments (no name calling here), these behaviours were/are enabled by poor academic quality in an institution, lack of tools to verify cheating, stealing or creative transference of someone’s work presenting as the work of another. Some of us might be all too aware of the “handout” or “small textbook” culture in some academic institutions in the world.

These are text re-packaged from the efforts of others with no acknowledgement of the original sources. This is plagiarism, dishonest and frankly illegal behaviour. Why do people plagiarise? There are many reasons why this happens and the University of Nottingham lists several reasons why students and people generally do this (see full article here)

  • Bad time management skills
  • Unable to cope with the work load
  • “The tutor doesn’t care, why should I?”
  • External pressure to succeed
  • Lack of understanding
  • “I can’t do this!”
  • “I want to see if I can get away with it”
  • “I don’t need to learn this, I only need to pass it”
  • “But you said work together!”
  • “But that would insult the experts in the field

Perhaps, you might recognise some of the phrases or reasons among this list and it is important to recognise that plagiarism is not always international however irrespective of the intentionality, recklessness or naivety; it is a disciplinary offence University of Oxford (link).

What is the impact and what are the penalties?
Evidence shows that students who plagiarise, cheat or commit an academic offence always believe they can get away without consequences. These days it is much harder to cheat or plagiarised submitted work. This is something that has also impacted people outside education including writers, politicians, researchers etc.

Some of the examples of the real life consequences of plagiarism include

  • Guttenberg plagiarism scandal refers to the German defence minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg who had copied large sections of work for his research without attribution or citing the work in 2007. This led to him resigning from his position and he was also stripped of his PhD (Columbia College, Canada: link)
  • In Korea’s Summer of Plagiarism, a blog article written by Jonathan Bailey (link), there were several cases of plagiarism, which included authors, Minister of Health, several government officials leading to calls for reform in the publishing industry.
  • Newspaper editor at the New York Daily News was fired for plagiarising parts from another article published in another newspaper The Daily Beast (link)

These are just some examples and just a quick online search would reveal many cases and examples. Academics have lost jobs for plagiarised work, Vice-Chancellors dragged before court, authors taken to court and lost revenue, with some facing jail time for work they plagiarised 20, 30 years in the past. This highlights the importance of doing your own work, acknowledging the work of others, learning good scholarship and staying away from trouble.

What is the impact for students?
For students, the consequences of plagiarism include: reduction of assessment marks, failure on course component, damaged reputation, poor job references, failure of an academic year, ejection from the course or the University or College. The consequences can go from light to very severe.

Very often, students who plagiarise or commit academic offense fail to realise the impact can be wider than what happens in school, college or University. You could be refused a job if you’ve been found to plagiarise in College or University. You could also be refused formal references from previous tutors or mentors etc.

These might appear harsh, however, do ask yourself, would you be pleased to be attended to by a doctor, a nurse, dentist or surgeon if you found out they cheated their way through college?

In addition, if you found out your boss at work, the Director of your organisation or the person who decides your promotion or future at work is only in their position because they cheated their way through their degree. I bet you would see that as a travesty! Therefore, the consequences are usually greater than the act in itself.

How do you avoid plagiarising or committing an academic offence?
In an article Avoiding Plagiarism by the University of Leicester’s Student Learning Development Centre, several steps have been suggested (Read the full article here)

  • Fully reference and acknowledge the work of others
  • Use your own words and develop your own writing style
  • Organise and structure your work in your own way
  • Don’t be afraid to express your own views

Several Universities provide plagiarism-checking software for students to check essay submissions, reports, thesis and other academic work for poor academic writing, poor citations or elements of unacknowledged work. Some examples of these tools include Turnitin, Blackboard SafeAssign etc. you can also find some free software online including examples like Grammarly.

Where can you find help or advice?
The links provided in this article or any good University would have free advice on how you can avoid plagiarism and there are many examples you can learn from with scenarios. It would be really, valuable to embed yourself in this activity especially now if you are a student or researcher with little knowledge of this. We will share articles on good writing and good academic writing on the hub soon however if you are new to academic writing, you can start with our previous article

Better still get in touch with us on any of our social media platforms or by email at info@aspiringprofessionalshub.com

So, every time you are faced with any writing, academic or non-academic, remember these steps

  • Read widely
  • Understand the concepts and context
  • Use your own words, do not copy and paste
  • Cite and acknowledge any and every author you have referenced.
  • Use a plagiarism checker
  • Smile

This article was written by Dr Emmanuel Adukwu (Tweets @EmmanuelAdukwu). He is a leading academic at a UK University with significant experience supporting students at undergraduate, masters and doctoral level. He is also the co-creator of the Aspiring Professionals Hub. If you enjoyed reading the article, do leave a comment at the bottom of this article. Also, don’t forget to appreciate the efforts by following our pages on InstagramTwitter and Facebook. Thank you.

If you have enjoyed reading this article. At APH, we pride ourselves with making accessible information to a wide community of readers globally for FREE and we welcome new writers and content from readers and writers from all over the world. If you have a story to tell or you would like to write for us, get in touch at info@aspiringprofessionalshub.com

#APHGradForum – Seven Steps To Enable you Prepare your First Lecture

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This was the statement made by a friend of mine who was invited to deliver her first lecture on an important but sensitive lecture topic. This feeling is not uncommon amongst early career academics. Unlike professionals developing their careers in primary and secondary school teaching who tend to be more prepared having gone through teacher training, for those going into lecturing in academia, your training comes on the job, usually after you have started teaching!  In many cases, after completing a Masters degree or a PhD/postdoc,  you could land your first lecture invitation. So what should you keep in mind if you find yourself in this situation? The handy tips below will give you a good starting point.

STEP ONE – Find the guidebook: The first bit of research you’ll need to do if you are about to teach at University, college or school is the curriculum. At University, this will the course/module specification. Here it will  be important for you to know what the anticipated learning outcomes are for the students within the year group. What type of assessment(s) have been designed for the course? How does the topic you are about to lecture on connect with the learning outcomes and assessment? Do you have the skills to deliver this material?

Blogging Q and A – A Writing workshop for Early Career Scientists

EDI.jpgLast week, Amara and I had the pleasure of sharing a platform with other blogging “experts” at the Society for Applied Microbiology (SfAM) summer conference at Edinburgh to chat all things blogging with a group of early career scientists… Edinburgh itself is a really good welcoming city, with great sights to see and lots to do and if you are a big fan of shopping, well, you might quite like it..oh and the scottish shortbread biscuits..enough said there!!..

The conversation about blogging was varied and went from the simple to quite complex. I’d like to share some of the questions which were asked and responses from the session and for the benefit of our readers, some extra useful information Enjoy reading!

Starting from the basics, what is a blog?

There are different definitions of what a blog is – according to the Oxford dictionaries, a blog is “A regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group that is written in an informal or conversational style.” Blogging can be formal or informal –  blogging can be as simple as having an online diary where you share your thoughts or experiences on a regular or irregular basis (whatever is convenient for you) or it could be something much bigger e.g. blogs run by University departments, biopharma companies sharing information with shareholders and consumers or simple trivia blogs with lots of fun things. In effect, a blog could be whatever you want it to be and that is what makes blogging an exciting and often rewarding activity.

I have a personal blog, is there a space for it out there and how do I grow it?

#MyUniStory – Making the most of opportunities as an international student

StudyChatIn today’s study chat, Amara shares her discussion with Cynthia Ochoga, the President Elect of the Student Union at the University of Salford. Cynthia shares from her perspective as an international student and offers advice on managing the opportunities and challenges within Higher Education to maximise your experience. Enjoy!

APH: Can you tell us about your educational and professional background? 

CO: My educational pursuit began at Home Science Nursery and Primary School, Ikoyi Lagos. In 1998, I moved on to Queens’ College Lagos for my secondary school education.

In 2006, I attended the University of Lagos where I undertook a diploma in Cell Biology and Genetics. By second year it became apparent to me that science was not a field I wanted to pursue and then left Nigeria to Middlesex University (MDX) Mauritius campus in 2010 and studied Psychology and Counselling. In 2014, I went to Oxford Brookes University and did a conversion to Law degree (GDL) as my 2nd degree and in September 2015, I came to University of Salford for my MSc in Media Psychology and I’m half way through it at the moment.

I have worked in a number of different roles too. My first job was a three-month internship at Action Health Incorporated. In 2010, prior to moving to Mauritius, I followed my passion in journalism and worked as an intern at a radio station in Nigeria.

While studying at MDX, I was elected president of the International Students’ Society for Mauritius campus. I also joined AIESEC, an international youth development organization and rose to become Vice President of External Relations which I did simultaneously with my role as President. In the final year of my undergraduate degree, I worked for a month with the Mauritius Institute of Directors as part of a team that delivered an international conference.

After graduation, I went to Nigeria to participate in the NYSC programme. Since then, I have worked with BBC Media City as a research assistant for Mozfest 2015. I have also worked in a customer services role for Doddles Parcels in Manchester. I recently resigned to take some time out to prepare to take on my new role as the President of the Student Union at the University of Salford.

You started out your Higher Education journey in the Biological sciences, what spurred the switch to Psychology? Was it a smooth transition?

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