This provides information relating to the pros and cons of social media in relation to plagiarism.
There will be two main issues discussed:
How to deal with:
- Students who do not understand the rules of quotations within social media.
- Students who deliberately try to cheat.
Today it is very easy for everyone to use the internet to find information – you might say that all information is at hand. Thus the students who want to simply copy and paste their writings are able to do so. They will be able to find and “sample” little pieces of information everywhere and put it all together into a school assignment. In such a case the student often does not feel that he or she is stepping out of line. The reason for this lies in the youth culture where it is regarded as okay – even creative – to sample from all sources. I use the word “sample” because it describes the creative process of picking up and re-using other people's work rather well.
However, in an academic tradition this is regarded as plagiarism – and we will have to teach our students how to deal with this issue in a media saturated world.
We use this definition of plagiarism: "Plagiarism is using someone else's work and presenting it as your own without accurately stating the source." (source: HTTP://en.stopplagiat.nu )
In this scenario it is important to emphasize the meaning and difference between the following terms of "using" (remembering that all using is ok, if you are stating the source):
- this somewhat broad definition makes it important to explain to your students that the most common plagiarism could probably happen unintentionally if the referencing is insufficient or incorrect
- this makes a focus on writing techniques: quotation marks and stating the original source in the footnotes. or:
Plagiarism can be deliberate deception - this would make a focus on cyber ethics and netiquette.
In recent years a new kind of business has established itself on the Web: sites where the students can exchange assignments: in exchange for a self-written assignment they can download another assignment – with a database that is already very big. If they do not have any assignments to upload they can buy – with real money – whatever school subject they need. The Danish place for this activity is called http://www.studienet.dk. This site is interesting because it combines a structured system for exchanging assignments with a lot of videos and other material which can be really helpful for the somewhat lazy student who might not have been awake through all their years at school. It is a complex combination that appeals to both good and lazy students and so it makes it seem okay to download assignments but it is a part of the social web, too.
For those of your students, who merely have to learn the correct quotation techniques it is important to emphasize to the students that all sources must be listed in the source list and that quotations – for that is what it is – must be marked as such. At the same time it is crucial that the students are aware of the different kind of sources:
- expert sources: books from well-known professors or teachers and published by well-known Universities and publishing firms - should be objective (ethos, logos).
- part sources: people who have a special interest in influencing the recipient in a special way - would be subjective (pathos, ethos).
- experienced sources: people who have a special experience - eyewitnesses to happenings for example (pathos, ethos).
all these sources cannot be treated in the same way with the same weight in their arguments.
But in general it is an academic achievement to have read sources - both internet sites and printed books - and it is often important to have an impressive and long bibliography in your assignment. Another problem with this group of students is the term "common knowledge" - just because this group will be confused about the limitations of what is known and how they learned it - "do I for instance have to refer to the teaching material, that my teacher gave me" - and so on?
"Common knowledge" means knowledge that is considered to be shared by everyone within a certain group or community e.g. a regional, institutional or academic community.
This knowledge can consist of generally known facts relating to e.g. geography, history, physics, language or literature."
"In Denmark, for example, the fact that the Danish capital is Copenhagen and the fact that Hans Christian Andersen is the author of many well-known fairy tales would both count as common knowledge" (source HTTP://en.stopplagiat.nu )- these facts do not need quotation marks and can be used as common knowledge.
You should of course initiate a discussion in the classroom about plagiarism:
Ask the students what the word plagiarism means to them. Give them the definition from this page and discuss the requirements when it comes to citing sources.
- When is it necessary to cite sources?
- How it is it done?
- Do you require the students to adhere to a particular citation style?
Give the students some examples of plagiarism:
- What should they look out for and how can they ensure academic integrity and honesty in their work?
- How can they use other people's knowledge, yet at the same time work independently?
- Discuss the term "common knowledge" - is there such a thing as "common" specialized knowledge for which a source need not be given?
All of this must be situated within the social media world. Learners must recognize that although they may not be writing an academic essay to be presented on paper, they must still reference their work appropriately, referring to the ideas written above.
For the lazy student who just buys his/her assignments it is necessary to use more radical means:
You could check if your school already has an agreement with a company which provides help. These receive the students’ documents as files and then checks for similarity with the web and other student assignments.
Ephorus which provides the same service.
However, if your school does not provide this kind of service there are lots of free services on the internet which provide the same service for free – but here you have to experiment yourself with the possibilities. Here are some of them (obviously the Google search word is “plagiarism checker”):
It is really all about teaching the students that pure plagiarism is wrong, even when writing/producing within the social media world – nobody wants to be stolen from and nobody really wants to lack the experience of working with and preparing assignments. This is part of the studying life, where you really get a chance of being creative and demonstrate that you have learned your stuff.
You should also make the consequences very clear to your students:
- A serious warning
- That you can fail your exam
- Either temporary or permanent expulsion
- Revocation of an academic degree
There are also many examples of well-known politicians and academics who later in their working lives have been disclosed as plagiarists and have had to resign from their positions. A stark warning for your students.
This site is collectively made by the Danish Universities: