Students still hazy on correct procedure

June 23, 2006

Phil Baty reports from the international plagiarism conference

Nearly one in five students admits to being unclear on how to correctly reference material taken from websites and other sources, a survey has shown.

The ongoing survey - the largest of its kind undertaken on the subject - by the Plagiarism Advisory Service (PAS) at Northumbria University has so far canvassed the views of more than 3,000 students.

The findings to date indicate that, while most students are aware of the rules on cheating and receive good guidance from their institutions, a worrying minority is still not clear on what is appropriate practice.

The survey, by Malcolm Bell, an academic adviser at Northumbria Learning, which runs the PAS for the university, found that 17 per cent of students were not confident that they could correctly incorporate the work of others into their own while staying within their university's rules.

Some 60 per cent of students said that they relied on their student handbook for information on acceptable practice and, while 83 per cent were happy that the guidance was clear, 14 per cent did not feel it was sufficiently clear.

Only a third of students had had specifically taught sessions on study skills and best academic practice, which, Mr Bell said, was a "cause of concern".

Alarmingly, while the vast majority of students were aware that copying information from websites and presenting the material as one's own work was wrong, about 53 per cent said that they did not believe their tutors would be able to spot such cheating.

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