Students still unsure what constitutes cheating

Europe-wide survey shows students don’t understand plagiarism

June 6, 2013

Source: Alamy

No conferring: many don’t recognise rewording texts as plagiarism

Many students do not understand what plagiarism is, according to a Europe-wide study.

Asked about a situation where 40 per cent of a submission is copied word for word without using quotations, citations or references, 91 per cent of respondents accurately identify this as plagiarism.

However, in the same situation where “some changes” have been made to the copied text, almost 40 per cent say they do not think it is plagiarism or are unsure whether it is. Among UK students the figure is 31 per cent, compared with just 6 per cent in the “word for word” scenario.

“It’s surprising how many students are not sure whether that’s plagiarism or have changed their minds from a previous question, when actually it’s the same,” said Irene Glendinning, a member of the Impact of Policies for Plagiarism in Higher Education across Europe project.

“You’ve still taken the idea and almost the same words, and used them without acknowledgement. You could even say it is worse, because the student is trying to deceive that it is their work or avoid detection software.”

The study is the result of a three-year project led by Coventry University, based on an anonymous and voluntary survey of almost 5,000 students, teachers and senior managers across Europe.

Data from the survey also show that almost a third of UK students think they have plagiarised either deliberately or accidentally.

This compares with 65 per cent in Lithuania, 46 per cent in France and only 10 per cent in Germany.

However, Ms Glendinning, academic manager for student experience at Coventry’s Faculty of Engineering and Computing, pointed out that the results had to be understood with reference to students’ understanding of what plagiarism is.

“Some people believe they have never plagiarised. It might be because they haven’t, but it might also be that they don’t understand what it is,” she said.

The results showed that students need more education on the subject, she added.

According to the study, no one knows how prevalent plagiarism is, Ms Glendinning said, including in the UK, which in general is “well ahead of the game” in terms of prevention and detection. National data on the subject are collected in countries including Sweden and Austria, but this requires common standards for defining and reporting cases and removing inconsistencies between institutions, something UK universities often resist in the name of preserving autonomy, she added.

A part of the study based on interviews with senior higher education figures highlights essay writing mills as an “elephant in the room”.

“A lot of research has to be done about how you go about detecting those cases and how you provide satisfactory proof the student didn’t do it themselves,” said Ms Glendinning. “A lot of countries aren’t even aware this is going on.”

Overall the study was likely to present a positively skewed picture of plagiarism policies and procedures in Europe because participation was voluntary and many institutions declined to take part, she added.

The preliminary findings will be presented on 12-13 June at a conference hosted by Mendel University in the Czech Republic and sponsored by plagiarism detection service Turnitin.

elizabeth.gibney@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Lecturer in Business and Management DE MONTFORT UNIVERSITY
Director of the Roslin Institute THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH
Lecturer in Economics DE MONTFORT UNIVERSITY
International Director UNIVERSITY OF PORTSMOUTH

Most Commented

James Fryer illustration (8 September 2016)

Some lecturers will rightly encourage forms of student interaction that are impossible for those covering their faces, Eric Heinze argues

Handwritten essay on table

Universities must pay more attention to the difficulties faced by students, says Daniel Dennehy

University of Oxford students walking on campus

University of Oxford snatches top spot from Caltech in this year’s World University Rankings as Asia’s rise continues

Theresa May entering 10 Downing Street, London

The prospect of new grammar schools on the horizon raises big questions for HE, writes Nick Hillman

Nosey man outside window

Head of UK admissions service Mary Curnock Cook addresses concerns that universities might ‘not hear a word’ from applicants