Real-World Problem Solving for the 21st Century
Department of Interdisciplinary Studies
A guide for understanding, preventing and adjudicating student plagiarism
Approved by IS Faculty and Academic Staff, April 21, 2004
- The Problem
Over the past five years plagiarism has become a major concern to faculty and program administrators due to the apparent increase in its incidence, although this may simply reflect an increase in its detection as a result of better search capabilities. For example, “cut-and-paste plagiarism” is reported to have increased from 10% of students admitting to this behavior in 1999 to 41% in 2001 (Cohn and Ansorge, 2004). A consequence of this development is that faculty are having to make tough decisions about what to do in cases of suspected plagiarism. While several of us are working to better understand the phenomena (see, for example, Maruca, 2004a; 2004b), it is necessary to implement a policy swiftly. In guiding this policy, we are adopting an approach that recognizes the different "varieties" of plagiarism and forms responses/consequences for each type. Consequences use both a restorative justice approach combined with progressive discipline based on the principles of both a clear formal articulation of: (a) the problem and ways to prevent it, (b) the procedure that will be followed once the problem is detected, and (c) progressively severe consequences for serious and repeated violations.
According to the WSU Student Handbook plagiarism is defined as taking and using another’s words or ideas as one’s own. Plagiarism results either from a failure to adequately credit the source of ideas, language, or data, or from altering language, paraphrasing, omitting or rearranging the words of others in an attempt to make these thoughts appear as one’s own. For a Wayne State University student any form of plagiarism is unacceptable, and will not be allowed in any IS course.
There are four basic kinds of plagiarism:
- Purchasing or copying whole papers produced by others. The most extreme form of plagiarism is when a student downloads, purchases or otherwise copies an entire term paper or article and presents it as his/her own work; this may also be considered fraud.
- Direct copying of selected sections (sentences, paragraphs, or several paragraphs strung together), known as “cut and paste” plagiarism or “patchwriting.” Phrases or sentences that are directly taken from another source, without quotation marks and references constitute plagiarism.
- Indirect plagiarism. Paraphrasing, summarizing or otherwise rewording another’s original work that is not common knowledge, without giving appropriate credit is also plagiarism.
- Resubmission of already submitted work. Plagiarism arises as well when a student uses all or most of work assigned and submitted for credit in another course, within or outside the program.
Any and all of these types of plagiarism are harmful and thereby considered a violation by the University, the College and the Department.
In particular plagiarism:
- Seeks unfair advantage by producing better work than could have been produced by the student without reliance on this practice.
- Attempts to obtain better grades than would have accrued to the student based on an assessment of his or her actual abilities.
- Undermines the student’s ability to learn how to produce his or her own original writing/creativity (as well as the student’s confidence in this ability).
- Wastes the time of the professor who is ultimately reading and assessing the work of another, not the student, and who may be compelled to spend additional time policing the plagiarism.
- Undermines the intrinsic educational process.
Consequently, there are no occasions where the practices that constitute plagiarism are acceptable. The willful practice of such behavior constitutes fraud or cheating, and will result in disciplinary action, as outlined below.
However, the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies recognizes that students who engage in plagiarism practices are not always seeking to obtain these advantages, nor do they necessarily intend to create their associated harms. Instead, in some cases students are unwittingly plagiarizing because of the increasingly normative place that plagiarism has in our society: as institutionally approved practice in grade school (reports from encyclopedias or books), as inadvertently rewarded in high school and community college (where it may be unpoliced) and as modeled by significant figures in mainstream society (musicians, pop-cultural artists, historians, politicians, journalists and religious leaders) (See Maruca, 2004b). Indeed, given that explicit citation is used rarely outside of scholarly studies, students—and adult and under-prepared students in particular—may be ignorant of, confused by, or have forgotten the conventions that govern academic work.
Moreover, in the case of type 2 “cut-and-paste plagiarism” students may actually be "patchwriting," which, rhetoric and composition scholars argue, should be considered a stage that many beginning writers pass through on the way to develop their own voices, sense of authority, and command over the words of others. While not the place anyone wants student writers to stay, it is considered a "normal" part of writing development instead of a purposeful attempt to defraud an instructor. In order to move beyond this stage, however, students need both explanations of why itis unacceptable and gentle prodding to move on. Focusing too much on the policing of plagiarism at this stage is seen to be overly narrow and even counter-productive as it bypasses the more important issues of command of sources and the development of rhetorical authority.
As a result, we recommend that a progressive, preventative, educational policy be adopted, which becomes more serious in its consequences with repeat offenses.
Plagiarism can be prevented both by students, faculty members and administration through taking a number of precautions.
Plagiarism can be avoided by using quotation marks around any phrase, sentence or paragraph that is directly taken from the work of another, regardless of the source, and by giving credit to the source of the information. Previously written work, by others or by one’s self cannot be submitted for a course assignment. Students have a responsibility for taking accurate notes, checking with instructors for citation methods or clarification of procedure, consulting with manuals if necessary, and carefully proofreading their own work. They should also leave ample time for the completion of assignments so that they are not tempted to cheat or make careless mistakes. Given these guidelines, students can avoid plagiarism by asking themselves three questions: (1) “Is this Plagiarism?” (2)Why is it or is it not plagiarism? (3) If it is plagiarism, how can it be corrected so that it is not plagiarism?” (Kadleck, nd).
In all cases, faculty should develop a consistent response to cases of plagiarism. Defintions and consequences must be clearly stated in course syllabi and explained in class.
Prevention of plagiarism is the key to minimize its occurrence. To achieve this, faculty should include a policy statement in syllabi, in which plagiarism is clearly defined, with examples provided. Faculty should state the policy and the process of consequences of being found to have plagiarized. Time should be spent at the beginning of class discussing plagiarism with students, and having them explain why it is a problem. Instructors should focus time and energy on why we in academia cite the work of others that are our sources. This has the advantage of explaining the reasoning behind our practices without being overly negative or offending students, and showing them what to do instead of plagiarizing.
Because it takes time to internalize and reproduce academic conventions, faculty should present, review and discuss these issues at all levels of instruction, including graduate.
Faculty are encouraged to include essay topics that are centered on specific issues rather than a general area. Assignments might be tied to currently published work (i.e. current issue of journals).
Faculty should consider multiple assessment methods including in-class exams, blue book exams, and closed book essay exams.
Faculty and Student Partnerships
Consistent with a restorative justice approach to plagiarism, particularly Type 2 (Cut and Paste Plagiarism), the TLT Group at http://tc.unl.edu/cansorge/lta/lta32.htm has developed a collaborative approach to the problem that faculty may wish to adopt. See the accompanying document.
The Interdisciplinary Studies Department will implement a consistent policy of prevention and progressive discipline, including a dispute resolution procedure. The overriding objective of this is to bring about a change in the students’ writing behavior rather than to implement a punishment. Thus the approach is one of restorative justice rather than punitive justice. Consequently, it is important to stagger responses, with the intention of avoiding progression to a more serious level. However, should the problem of a student’s plagiarism persist, the more serious sanctions should be invoked. To encourage consistency in this progressive and restorative approach, the following policy and process should be followed.
- Policy and Penalties
University policy states that students can be subject to multiple sanctions, from reprimand to expulsion, in reaction to prohibited conduct, which includes academic dishonesty (see “Student Due Process Policy,” http://www.studentcouncil.wayne.edu/doso/policies/SDPP.pdf). The Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, however, recommends that the response to cases of plagiarism take the form of a decision tree based both on the type/seriousness of plagiarism, the frequency and the level of student. For example, students who are attempting original work but fail to cite should be asked to do the work over again, but should not become part of the punitive process. Nonetheless, while our response to them depends on their individual stage within their academic career, all students must be firmly warned that such practices are unacceptable. In these instances we recommend consequences that acknowledge the change in our expectations of students at varying levels.
- Students will need to pass a plagiarism exam, devised by faculty and based on course content defining the problem with examples and outlining the policy of the Department and University. The content will be taught in the program’s introductory course (2030/3080). The results of the exam will be filed in the student’s records. The purpose of this course content/exam will be to establish that students can discern examples of plagiarism, and know what it is and how to avoid it. The results will be archived for future reference should a student be found to have plagiarized and claim that he/she did not understand what it means. This takes time and energy but time invested early in this process will prevent considerable time and entrenched practices later. Even if students don’t do well on the quizzes/exam, the purpose is to engage them explicitly in the normative expectations at the beginning of their program. ISP 2030/3080 teachers should be willing to devote at least a week (homework plus one class discussion plus quiz/exam) to make this effective.
- Given that students best learn how to avoid plagiarism in the process of research writing, the initial engagement of them in the plagiarism issue should be reinforced throughout the program. The process would begin in ISP 1510 (Written Communication), in which instructors might devote a whole month to research methods, including how to accurately draw from and cite sources. ISP 3510 (Intermediate Composition) and ISP 3991 (Intermediate Interdisciplinary Core) would continue this progression, providing students further opportunities to practice their research skills and internalize the citation process. Even Senior Essay and Senior Seminar instructors would be expected to review citation procedures and plagiarism with students.
- The formation of student-teacher partnerships as outlined above and documented by Cohn and Ansorge (2004) also provides a way of reducing the incidence of plagiarism.
Consequences and Sanctions
Note: While the sanctions below represent IS guidelines, instructors reserve the right to supplant or supplement these with their own policy, as long as that policy 1) is in accordance with university policies and 2) is clearly stated on the syllabus and explained in class.
- First instance of proven plagiarism: Depending on the seriousness (see section II: 1 is most serious, type 2, 3 & 4 above are seen as decreasing levels of seriousness), and student’s level within the program (see below), the instructor will warn the student, explain the reason for the problem, request that the problem section be rewritten. Clearly, if type 1 or extensive and/or intentional type 2 (cut and paste) occurs the instructor has the discretion to move straight to the next step.
- For all students, at all levels: Plagiarism of Type 1 (fraud) will result in the student’s failing the assignment that was plagiarized and being required to retake the plagiarism test in order to continue in the program. At instructor’s discretion, student may be allowed to re-do the assignment with appropriate grade penalties.
- Students in 1000 and 2000-level courses: Regarding Type 2 plagiarism, students who create papers using many different unacknowledged sources (often called "patchwriting") may still be at a developmental level in their research writing abilities, rather than purposely and dishonestly plagiarizing. For these students, the draft or paper will not be accepted as meeting the course requirements. The professor and student should meet, go over the "Source Use FAQ” document and the professor's written policy, and discuss specific ways the paper needs to be revised to emphasize the student’s voice and authority. Student should be allowed to resubmit without penalty.
- Students at junior and above levels (3000 and 4000-level courses): The professor and student should meet, go over the "Source Use FAQ" and the professor's written policy, and discuss why this sort of unacknowledged citation is unacceptable. Revision may be allowed at instructor’s discretion, but is not required; student may fail a section of the paper or course.
- For graduate students: For any of the types of plagiarism outlined above, the paper will be given a grade of E, with no revision allowed. Professor, student and MISP chair should meet to discuss the consequences for this class and the student's academic career.
- A second instance of documented, proven serious plagiarism of any type (1-4), in any undergraduate course, will result in the student failing the assignment in which work was plagiarized. Opportunities to revise papers to redeem the grade, especially in lower-level classes, are at instructor’s discretion. The student will be required to retake the plagiarism test in order to continue in the program. Graduate students will fail the course and be removed from the program.
- The third instance of serious plagiarism by students at any level above sophomore in any course of the program, will result in expulsion from the program. For students at the 1000-2000 level, repeat steps 1 and 2, above.
- Instructors taking any of these actions (including giving warnings and opportunities for revision) will notify the Department Chair in writing of the student's name, magnitude of copying, the evidence for the case, actions taken and the impact of the violation on the student’s grade for the course or standing in the program.
- This written document should be signed by the student, acknowledging that he/she understands the nature of the problem, the consequences, and the ramifications of persisting in such practices, even if unintentional. Email notification and “signature” are also permissible. If the student refuses to sign, the report should still go forward, with student rebuttal (if any) attached.
- The Chair will review the materials and decide if the case of plagiarism is warranted and should be officially recorded. Any cases of plagiarism deemed warranted will be passed to the Department Committee for Academic Dishonesty (DCAD). Such referral bypasses the normal grade appeals process. The DCAD will be comprise of the chair of the department, the chair of the Academic Standing Committee, and the Director of Student Services. They shall meet to consider the case. Should they uphold the case the student will be informed of the outcome. Should they not uphold the case, they can refer the case to the Academic Standing Committee as a regular grade appeal.
- In either case the Chair of the DCAD will inform the student and the instructor of the outcome of the case within 10 working days of notification to the committee of a plagiarism case.
- The Chair shall report the outcome of the DCAD to the Dean.
Kadleck, Collen. N.d. “Plagiarism” University of Cincinnati, Department of Criminal Justice.
Cohn, Ellen R. and Charles J. Ansorge. 2004. “Partnering with Students to Avoid “Cut and Paste” Plagiarism” The TLT Group at http://tc.unl.edu/cansorge/lta/lta32.htm
Maruca, Lisa. 2004a. “Plagiarism” in J. K. Roth (Ed.), Ethics: Revised Edition. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press (forthcoming).
Maruca, Lisa. 2004b. “Plagiarism and its (Disciplinary) Discontents: Towards an Interdisciplinary Theory and Pedagogy” Issues in Integrative Studies 21 (2004): in press.