Most students do not plan on plagiarizing or being academically dishonest, but each year over 500 incidents of academic dishonesty or plagiarism are reported at the University of Manitoba.
Academic integrity ambassadors are students committed to helping their fellow peers better understand the rules at the University of Manitoba. These ambassadors facilitate workshops, create educational material and plan events on behalf of the Student Advocacy office. These ambassadors are a great resource to students because plagiarism and academic dishonesty are not always black-and-white issues. There is a grey area, where some may infer that their work on a particular paper, project or test is within the rules, while others may think otherwise.
These ambassadors share some of the common ways students fall victim to plagiarism and academic dishonesty.
“For the most part, students don’t try to be academically dishonest, but something happens. Either they make a mistake because they don’t know how to cite or paraphrase properly, or something happens that clouds their judgment.
“If you’re making decisions under tremendous amounts of pressure, you’re not going to be thinking very clearly about the results of your actions. It’s almost as if the students that commit acts of academic dishonesty are under so much pressure that they’re in survival mode and their thought process changes from ‘This is right/wrong’ to ‘What can I do to get through this moment?’ It’s a rare occurrence that there isn’t at least some remorse for their actions.”
“As a writing tutor, I see students who do this all the time in their rough drafts. We’ll be reading one paragraph, and then all of a sudden I see more sophisticated words and writing style; the ‘voice’ of the author just changes suddenly. And then I’ll ask, ‘Where did you get this idea from?’ and the student will show me the source. Then we can discuss why the paraphrase they used wasn’t a good paraphrase, and we’ll model a better one for them to use in their paper. We also discuss plagiarism and the consequences of it. It’s not a matter of serial cheaters. It’s that they simply don’t know.
“Another problem I see is that students simply don’t keep track of their notes well enough, even when they do start by informing themselves rather than jumping straight to writing. Students need to make and keep a system of note-taking that differentiates what the author says, from what they’re saying about the author.
“So really, simply knowing how to use APA or MLA or Chicago isn’t enough. It’s about getting to know writing as a process rather than as a result. Starting by reading about a topic and keeping track of notes, then mapping those concepts out and understanding how they connect, and then focusing on developing an argument organically from that information is what we need to get across to students. And initiatives by the Academic Learning Centre, Student Advocacy, and other units and departments are moving more in this direction, which is great.”
“Inappropriate collaboration is when students work together on an assignment that is meant to be done individually. Their answers end up being the same when the expectation is that everyone should have their own way of presenting their answers to the assignment. Sometimes working on an assignment is okay, because that’s how an assignment or course is set up, or that is encouraged by the instructor. So if students are used to working in that kind of environment, then they sometimes don’t make that connection that this new assignment is meant to be done individually and the group approach is inappropriate.
“Sometimes the instructor may not give very clear direction. It’s important that instructors make it very clear that if students want to discuss an assignment generally, then that is fine, but when it comes to actually writing answers or discussing answers, that part is not open to collaboration.
“Sometimes students ask their fellow students for help, and it can be difficult to know how to appropriately help classmates without crossing the line. You might share your assignment to give another student an idea of what you did, and that student ends up copying it. You were not intending to be dishonest or collaborate. Instead of using it as a guideline, that classmate ends up taking it verbatim and applying it to their own assignment. Both students would be called in for a disciplinary meeting.”