The first, "Plagiarism Lines Blur for Students in Digital Age," talks about, well, how a lot of today's students just don't get it when it comes to the importance of creating one's own work and citing the work of others:
At Rhode Island College, a freshman copied and pasted from a Web site’s frequently asked questions page about homelessness — and did not think he needed to credit a source in his assignment because the page did not include author information.These are anecdotes, of course, and I will say upfront that they do not reflect my own experience when I have taught courses and graded students as a lecturer or a teaching assistant at two public university systems. I was instructed by my supervising professor and the TA who came before me to spend half of an entire lecture on what plagiarism is, how to avoid it, and how hard we will come down on your ass if you get caught doing it. It also helped that the type of assignments we gave were very heavy on creating one's own work and didn't rely too much on compiling the information of others.
At DePaul University, the tip-off to one student’s copying was the purple shade of several paragraphs he had lifted from the Web; when confronted by a writing tutor his professor had sent him to, he was not defensive — he just wanted to know how to change purple text to black.
And at the University of Maryland, a student reprimanded for copying from Wikipedia in a paper on the Great Depression said he thought its entries — unsigned and collectively written — did not need to be credited since they counted, essentially, as common knowledge.
But the article suggests that this is a more widespread problem than I've experienced:
Professors used to deal with plagiarism by admonishing students to give credit to others and to follow the style guide for citations, and pretty much left it at that.Wikipedia is the bane of professors, as you may well know. I have explained more times than I care to remember — always proactively, before someone hands something in from the encyclopedia made by Wiccans — that Wikipedia should never be a citation in your paper unless you're doing a paper on Wikipedia itself; on the other hand, however, it can be useful as a starting point for finding resources if you look at the links down at the bottom.
But these cases — typical ones, according to writing tutors and officials responsible for discipline at the three schools who described the plagiarism — suggest that many students simply do not grasp that using words they did not write is a serious misdeed.
It is a disconnect that is growing in the Internet age as concepts of intellectual property, copyright and originality are under assault in the unbridled exchange of online information, say educators who study plagiarism.
Digital technology makes copying and pasting easy, of course. But that is the least of it. The Internet may also be redefining how students — who came of age with music file-sharing, Wikipedia and Web-linking — understand the concept of authorship and the singularity of any text or image.
“Now we have a whole generation of students who’ve grown up with information that just seems to be hanging out there in cyberspace and doesn’t seem to have an author,” said Teresa Fishman, director of the Center for Academic Integrity at Clemson University. “It’s possible to believe this information is just out there for anyone to take.”
Still, it's disappointing that I should have to spend so much time with this. I guess it's not surprising, though, given the "foot-out-the-door" approach many schools have toward their students, pushing them along so they at least pass onto the next level. (By contrast, Korea has a "foot-in-the-door" approach where the main goal is doing whatever you can to ensure you somehow make it into whatever top school or top company you're trying to enter, even if just barely. But once someone is in college, the foot-out-the-door attitude sometimes takes over.)
Are you part of 'Generation Plagiarism'?," suggest that this is a Millennium Generation (or Gen-Y) problem, but I think no small number of my fellow Gen-Xers are equally as ethically challenged, if not more so. When I was in college in the 1990s, there was a lot less of a looming threat that Teach will go online and find out that, say, you didn't theorize the micro-macro dichotomy of Social Science inquiry on your own, and that meant greater temptation.
But again, that's anecdotal. And for more of my anecdotal impressions, I'll say that I didn't really run into too much plagiarism in my academic encounters in South Korea, both as an instructor and a grad student. For the former, it may have been the type of assignments, and for the latter, it may have been due to the quality of the student body and the clear expectations about plagiarism.
And I'm guessing that story is more in line with what many NSETs in the K-blogosphere claim is rampant in Korean schools. Again, though, I'm not so sure. Like the NYT article, we run the risk of using an egregious incident as a representative case in a given population of students, thus smearing a whole lot of people who not only did nothing wrong, but worked their asses off to get what they achieved.
Work their asses off in South Korean schools, you derisively ask? Yes. Many South Korean colleges are no longer the four-year picnic that came as a reward for getting into college in the first place, particularly because of increasingly intense competition for post-baccalaureate jobs and grading quotas designed to eliminate grade inflation. In my brief stint as a lecturer in Korean academia, I could give no more than 30% of my students an A, and no more than 40% of my students a B. Regardless of how well they performed, at least 30% would get a C, D, or F. I wrote about that at Korea Beat:
My one stint at teaching undergrads in Korea was nothing like that. We were forced to give weekly updates on attendance, for which there was an automatic F if one received beyond, I believe, three in that semester.And this:
Passing is not failing, but neither is it doing well. In the 30-40-30 system that is becoming the new standards, no more than 30% of the class can get an A (including A- and A+), no more than 40% can get a B (including B- and B+), and at least 30% must get some form of C, D, or F.Whoops! I just plagiarized myself.
Yeah, if someone shows up and takes the exams, they are guaranteed at least a C, a passing grade. That allows them to move on to graduate, but in today's competitive job market, that might as well be an F.
The four-year picnic is a thing of the past in many schools.