The concept of academic integrity is at the center of plagiarism as a core value, particularly the personal integrity. Studies have shown that students do not understand the connection between their values and the manner in which they relate to plagiarism (Flint, Clegg & Macdonald, 2006). In case according to the literature, plagiarism is a matter on the increase Hrasky, & Kronenberg, 2011), the academic management ought to have authorized interest in being a party to stop the rise of the vice by attempting to reduce it. The existence of plagiarism is out of the question, but the rationale for plagiarism among students as well as the proper course of action in curbing the menace is central in the debate about plagiarism. High profile cases have indicated that poor management choices together with certain aspects of self-interest result in disastrous consequences. Surprisingly, plagiarism among students may be caused by factors that are not within their superficial knowledge, and thus the control has to well rooted in the causes. This paper brings into focus how students conceptualize plagiarism and their views with regards to control of unintentional plagiarism in academic writing.
Universality of Plagiarism
Plagiarism, equated to dishonesty, has no set standard definition in as much as it is a significant academic history of students during their entire period in learning institutions. Remarkably, plagiarism occurs in many forms ranging from dishonesty during examinations and tests, collaboration on individual task assignments, using other people's ideas and concepts with no proper attribution, fabrication of work to purchase of assignments. With no proper definition of plagiarism, there is enough evidence to point out that the vice is on the rise among students in learning institutions (Jones 2011). As a result of the increase in the levels of dishonesty among students in institutions of higher learning such as universities and colleges through plagiarism, the level of integrity has equally fallen considerably; a scenario described as "integrity recession" (Voelker, Love, & Pentina, 2012). Cases of dishonesty among students have remained high regardless of the efforts by the academic management in addressing the phenomenon. Technological advancement has played a huge role in the rise of cases of plagiarism due to easy access to electronic materials. Sanctions and discipline are among the key measures taken against students who are caught plagiarizing. Such measures have proved to be ineffective with time as it becomes clear that a proper solution lies with the students in their attempt to deal with unintentional plagiarism.
The Rationale for Student Plagiarism
A large number of students show confusion in using the proper methods to avoid plagiarism due to the lack of standard definition of the concept. Consequently, whereas some students perceive plagiarism as entirely acceptable, others hold different opinions concerning the concept. The ethnic backgrounds of learners play a major role in the differing definitions of plagiarism which makes the students lack a clear understanding of the terminology. If the learners are capable of defining the concept, its appropriate application is in question in terms of what has been learned (Foltynek, & Cech, 2013). Therefore, the learners are prone to various infinite reactions, either ethnically or non-ethnically, as far as plagiarism is concerned despite their exposure to literacy training. Educating students on the appropriate academic practices is not a guarantee that they will not plagiarize. As such it becomes very difficult to figure out the exact reason behind their plagiarism since the intent is almost impossible to discover. All factors considered, students plagiarize even after they are exposed to the effects and dangers of plagiarism in high schools or the universities.
Minimizing Unintentional Plagiarism
Plagiarism can result from students being unfamiliar with the academic discourses. Also, the ignorance on the part of the students can easily and frequently lead to plagiarism, and not an intentional act as many tend to believe. Plagiarism is not an indicator of dishonesty, immorality, or absence of ethical values. Instead in some scenarios, the students are pegged back by the need to present work which it meets the standards required by the lecturers. The students become powerless which is evident in their failure to come up with new ideas from the materials they have read. The requirement becomes a priority to them more often than the capacity to critically engage with the materials that they have read from. Differences in the experiences of failure to identify the significance of their work are also likely to result into plagiarism among students. Failure to visualize the impacts of assuming the rights of another individual's work is another source of plagiarism that is common among students in institutions of higher learning (Luke, 2014).
Lack of awareness, ignorance, and lack of proper understanding or even maybe English not being the first language of the student is likely to result into plagiarism (Volkov, Volkov, & Tedford, 2011). Also, there are particular contexts that may influence plagiarism among students such as peer behavior and the perceptions they hold concerning plagiarism, the apprehended likelihood of being reported for dishonesty, and the gravity of the penalties set against plagiarism within learning instructions. Students are likely to continuously plagiarize due to time constraints or because of lack of awareness and the unpredictability of the existing punishment for cheating, whereas others engage in it even after knowing the repercussions very well. Some students cheat due to negative attitudes against the courses they pursue while others partake of it by the other students doing the same. In certain cases, the benefits of dishonesty to the students are more lucrative than the risks of being caught in which the chances of getting caught in their perception are quite low. In an attempt to summarize and paraphrase content in their own words, students end up in confusion that results in plagiarism.
The students focus more on the end product and the excitement of sharing the information with their friends without considering the implications of what they are getting involved in. To them, all information is freely available, equal and share similar values. Students, therefore, do not assign any importance and protection to their work (Burgess-Proctor, Cassano, Condron, Lyons, & Sanders, 2014). To discourage plagiarism, it is important to foster cultural solidarity among students in which they check plagiarism from their friends or assist them in matters concerning plagiarism. Encouraging the students to practice what they are taught on plagiarism makes them develop critical skills and exercise a level of confidence in their academic writing. Compulsory writing workshops can go a long way to guide students on academic writing where they can learn to avoid common mistakes in their writing and improve with time. Strategies used in discouraging plagiarism among students should be actively employed (Glendinning, 2014) to ensure that the students use their knowledge in developing writing skills that are appropriate rather than engaging in activities that are related to plagiarism such as copying.
The Transition from High School to Higher Learning Institutions
The work of postgraduates not only reflects on them but also the institutions they are enrolled in, and therefore they should exhibit high standards in their academic writing. Critical thinking is important for the production of original work. Whereas postgraduates are guided in their academic activities, the undergraduates are spoon-fed and as such do not develop the necessary skills and knowledge required to eliminate plagiarism in the institutions of higher learning making them disadvantaged. Familiarizing the undergraduates with the academic as well as university rules at an early stage is important in learning about plagiarism and meeting the required standards of academic writing. At the time of admission into the institutions of higher learning, the students have no idea what plagiarism means and are needed to do their assignments without prior knowledge on how to avoid plagiarism.
At this point, a majority of the students lack academic writing skills, research skills, referencing knowledge, and time management skills due to permission to summarize texts without acknowledgment of the sources. In most cases, the high schools do offer adequate preparations to the students on how to counter the challenges they are likely to face at the university. With little or lack thereof academic writing skills, high school graduates fail to meet the standards required at the university. As a result, they memorize and overuse materials in their academic work without knowing that it amounts to plagiarism since there are more strict rules for students on the use of these materials at the university as compared to the high school level (Ting, Musa, & Mah, 2014). The knowledge gaps among the students cause a lot of problems as far as unintentional plagiarism is concerned.
Lengthy exposure to rules regarding plagiarism is likely to lead to less unintentional plagiarism as opposed to the largely ignorant university freshmen. Therefore, lack of prior understanding and poor background experiences with plagiarism is a huge challenge to the undergraduates. To minimize the trend, the skills of critical thinking should be nurtured at the very early stages of academic work to produce more effective students while at the same time reducing the gap between the junior and senior students at the university with regards to plagiarism in academic writing. To achieve this, the perceptions and experiences of plagiarism at the high school level needs to be completely changed as a method of combating plagiarism in higher institutions (Averill, & Lewis, 2013). Frequent engagement in writing assignments, as well as evaluations, stimulate critical thinking among students hence leading to universities producing all-around scholars through enforcement of extensive literacy training practices (Averill et al., 2013).
Depending on the level of study, use of academic sources varies widely. For instance, at the first year plagiarism among students is not taken as seriously as it is the subsequent years hence the first year's students might continue with the trend in their academic work. As such, it is upon the institutions and the academic management to strictly put the policies into active use right from the first year all through to the final year of the students in the learning institutions as this would enhance their integrity and that of the school as well. As Ting et al. (2014) discovered, awareness of plagiarism does not improve depending on the amount of time spent at the institutions of higher learning rather the students come up with different inappropriate strategies as well as textual borrowing methods that they use over time.
Plagiarism among Second Language Students
Students who use English as their second language may be completely ignorant of the appropriate material and content or lack thereof in academic writing particularly when they are new to a given territory. For instance, imitation is categorized as plagiarism in academic writing, however, in most cultures of second language speakers, it is a method used to adapt to the new language and subsequently the culture. In such cases, imitation is considered a learning material rather than a way to belittle a particular individual. It follows that such students are prone to using academic sources in an inappropriate manner (Gunnarsson,...
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