War on plagiarism 1

July 23, 2004

Mike Reddy's assertion that direct instruction in what plagiarism is will reduce the incidence of the offence (Why I... July 9) in no way reflects my own experience.

Middlesex University has included direct instruction on the nature of plagiarism in its first-year core course for five years. Not only have I seen no reduction in the number of incidents in the classes I teach, but it has become more, not less, blatant (students no longer seem to copy from each other), and this is despite the fact that I provide warnings in the handbooks and explain orally what is forbidden when essays are set and when they are due in.

As for there being no victim but the student, this semester I spent four hours searching for a student's source material. It took so long because the student had bought an academic paper (not an essay) from a pay-to-view website. That is my time wasted and the $14.95 (£8.00) I had to spend to confirm that the student had copied the essay in its entirety.

One thing most of my plagiarists do have in common is that they tend to have poor attendance records. Perhaps Reddy is correct, but if students do not turn up, I cannot teach them.

Farah Mendlesohn
Middlesex University

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