Cheating common, say Brazil’s students

Report points to prevalence of plagiarism and low awareness of academic integrity and referencing conventions

June 19, 2014

Source: Getty

Fair play? Academic integrity is ‘a subject little researched’ in Brazil

Nearly one in 10 Brazilian students admits buying an undergraduate essay, while almost three-quarters have borrowed from or lent papers to friends, a study says.

While the issue of fair play will feature highly in this month’s Fifa World Cup in Brazil, the focus on academic integrity in the South American state is far less intense, according to the new research.

Based on a poll of 530 undergraduates at two public and two private universities in the Rio district, Andréa Paula Osório Duque and Francisco José dos Santos Alves from the State University of Rio de Janeiro found students had sketchy knowledge of issues around plagiarism and academic referencing.

Some 8 per cent said they had bought essays and 72 per cent said they knew students who had done so. Seventy-three per cent had borrowed or lent their work to their peers and 52 per cent said they had copied texts from the internet without citing the authors.

The study, Plagiarism and Academic Misconduct: A Survey in Brazilian Universities, was presented at the International Integrity and Plagiarism Conference, held in Gateshead from 16 to 18 June.

The authors said the issue of academic integrity was “a subject still little researched and explored in the Brazilian educational system”.

Preventing academic misconduct and improving quality in Brazil is seen as vital as student numbers rise, having already jumped from 2.8 million in 2000 to 6.6 million in 2010, according to Unesco figures.

Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff has pledged to invest 75 per cent of future offshore oil royalties in education – estimated to amount to R112 billion (£31 billion) from oil already being extracted alone – to fuel growth in student numbers – a commitment worth about 10 per cent of its GDP.

But there is still a “gap in learning in relation to copyright law, direct and indirect quotation” that must be addressed, the paper’s authors said. Almost half (45 per cent) of those surveyed said their tutors did not use anti-plagiarism software such as Turnitin; 31 per cent said that tutors did not explain how to do citations properly.

There is also evidence of plagiarism in papers submitted to Brazilian science journals, according to Marcelo Krokoscz, from Brazil’s School of Commerce Foundation Álvares Penteado (FECAP), who also presented at the Gateshead conference.

Of a sample of 47 papers published last year, 29 showed signs of word-by-word plagiarism, seven contained self-plagiarism, three had “mosaic plagiarism” (otherwise known as “synonym substitution”) and one exhibited signs of collusion.

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