Positive Approach Required to Prevent Plagiarism
by Daniel Jungwirth
Academic integrity, in general, concerns plagiarism and other dishonest acts. The issue became quite relevant to the university last year when a large number of students in an English 100 class were found to be plagiarizing.
To combat the growing concern over academic integrity, Dr. Hilary Horan, vice-president of academic affairs, says the University of Regina has begun to look at prevention rather than discipline of the matter.
“Emphasis is not so much on catching people and policing [academic dishonesty], it is more important to be proactive and prevent this.”
A committee of various university students and staff has been formed to organize a week to educate students on the issue. One of the main foci of Academic Integrity Week is a survey to be taken by students and faculty to analyze the academic misconduct at the University of Regina.
James McNinch, director of the teaching development centre and part of the survey committee, says, “The goal of the survey is to raise awareness — to get people talking to their students in their classes and to generate data that may be useful.”
He observes that there is a difference in opinion on what is classified as a serious offence between students and faculties. McNinch continues by saying that research has shown students tend to plagiarize when they get the feeling that the professor doesn’t care.
Questions in the survey include policies on plagiarism at the university as well as more intimate questions on observing others act dishonestly.
Students may be wary to answer questions such as “How often, if ever, have you seen another student cheat during a test or examination at the U of R?” The survey is anonymous, though. The only identifiable feature is the fact that you are a student at the University of Regina.
The students are not being asked to admit to academic misconduct or to be “tattle-tales.”
Raeanne Thompson, academic advisor for the Faculty of Science, suggests that students are not being singled out but are a part of an international effort.
“Students want to be a part of something bigger. Students must take a more active role in the responsibility of what’s going on in their own classrooms.”
Hitomi Suzuta, a representative of graduate students, adds, “We need to play up the fact that we want to create a very positive environment and that everyone is working towards a very marketable degree.”
Thompson concurs, stating that a degree is going to give you certain respect, responsibility and credibility which may be lost with academic misconduct.
The difficulty with controlling academic misconduct is that different disciplines have different concerns over academic integrity.
Horan states, “There isn’t a consistency across the university or between universities.”
He continues to say that it is when one discipline interacts with another, such as an arts student taking a laboratory class, that the line of misconduct is blurred.
The survey was originally designed by Don McCabe of Rutgers University for the Centre for Academic Integrity, which the University of Regina is a member of. The language and questions of the survey have been adapted to fit the context of the University of Regina.
Other Academic Integrity Week events include discussions and educational activities involving plagiarism. Watch for posters around campus regarding the events to take place.
To take part in the survey, go to http://integrity.rutgers.edu/reginaone.asp (for first-year students), http://integrity.rutgers.edu/regina.asp (for other students) or http://integrity.rutgers.edu/reginafac.asp (for faculty members).