April 7, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 99  

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NEWS

One-third of undergrads plagiarize: study

By Dave Ward
Gazette Staff

A survey conducted at Canadian universities is bringing new light to the issue of plagiarism.

Julia Christensen Hughes, director of Teaching Support Services at the University of Guelph, created the survey along with Don McCabe of Rutgers University in New Jersey. McCabe has released findings that suggested one in every three undergraduate students has plagiarized at least once during university.

“There is debate about whether certain activities are cheating,” Hughes said. “We asked students about a wide range of behaviours, from have they ever copied a couple of sentences to have they bought a paper off the Internet.”

While the results may not suggest that one in every three students seriously plagiarize, she said, it is a complex and serious issue, and both faculty and students need to work together to find solutions.

Allan Gedalof, an English professor at Western, rejects the idea of assigning fewer take-home assignments as a way to prevent plagiarism.
“The problem with only writing in class is you are only assessing a student’s ability to do first contact work,” he said.

“Sometimes we have to have knowledge at our fingertips,” he said, adding students sometimes need time to research and do in-depth work to develop their skills.

“If students try and cheat the system they are only cheating themselves. They get a piece of paper but they haven’t achieved any personal growth.” he explained.

Hughes said a better solution is to create an environment where everyone acts with integrity. “Some students say they will never cheat in a course where they respect the professor,” she explained. “If students think the professor doesn’t care [about the course], they will do whatever they have to do to get through [the course] as easily as possible.”

Fewer take-home assignments does limit the educational experience, said Debra Dawson, director of the Teaching Support Centre at Western. “I know employers are looking for students with critical writing skills.”

She said good trust between students and faculty would result in students being less likely to cheat in their classes. “When both students and faculty are actively involved in learning, that trust will emerge.”

“Take-home assignments allow students to learn material on their own and see what areas need to be improved,” said first-year social science student Mike Block. “Besides, exams will weed out those that plagiarize.”

“Even though I can’t really relate to my professors, I respect them,” said first-year arts student Kyle Beatty. He said respecting his professors would make him less likely to cheat, adding he does not blatantly plagiarize. “Every now and then I will copy off my buddy’s assignment; nothing serious, though.”

 

 

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