Teaching and Learning Centre

Academic integrity and plagiarism

There is an ongoing debate about how to deal with academic standards, integrity and plagiarism, and there are no easy solutions as this issue is related to cultural differences.

What constitutes knowledge?

The video clip Writing across borders: citation, academic honesty, and plagiarism shows a student from China talking about the concept of sharing in China and the cultural reasons behind it.

Before watching the video, discuss or reflect on these questions:

  • Is plagiarism a problem in your classroom? How do you view plagiarism (Do you see it as cheating? Stealing? A survival strategy?)
  • Do you explain plagiarism in your class? How do you explain it? What do you compare it to?
  • Why do you think students plagiarize? Do you ask this question to your students? What kind of answers have you had?
  • What do you say to students when you find plagiarized information in their writing? How do you deal with it?

After watching the video, review these questions for discussion and reflection:

  • Do you think a student who comes from a culture in which "it’s ok to share" and everyone is "used to sharing everything" finds it easy to understand the concept of intellectual property?
  • How can you explain this concept in terms a student from this kind of culture can understand? What words can you use? How could you compare this to other cultural differences between the student’s home country and North America?
  • Part of the issue with plagiarism is the fact that we don’t need to cite information that is considered common knowledge. How do we know what is common knowledge? Why do we distinguish between common knowledge and information that must be cited? How can we explain this difference to our learners? What words can we use to explain this? What kind of examples would help them to understand this concept?‌

Academic honesty

Many students come from cultures in which the concepts of intellectual property and plagiarism do not exist.

Video: Lecture about academic honesty.

Questions for discussion or reflection before watching the video clip:

  1. Is plagiarism a problem in your classroom? How do you view plagiarism (For example, do you see it as cheating? Stealing? A survival strategy?)
  2. Do you explain plagiarism in your class? How do you explain it? What do you compare it to?
  3. What are the consequences for plagiarism on an individual assignment? What are the consequences for plagiarism on a group assignment?

Questions for discussion and reflection after watching the video clip:

  1. Why does the instructor adopt a punitive attitude when he explains the policy regarding plagiarism?
  2. The explanation that follows the clip of the classroom presents some cultural background information. Does this information help you to understand some of the reasons why students may unintentionally plagiarize information in their written assignments?
  3. Do you think that using these concepts to introduce plagiarism to students in terms of cultural differences would be helpful? Why or why not?‌
  4. Why do you think so many students express the kind of anxiety that the student in the interview does?

An alternate approach

Video: Learner-centred discussion of academic honesty.

Questions for discussion or reflection after watching the video clip:

  1. Did this way of presenting academic integrity seem helpful to you? Why or why not?
  2. Would you consider adopting this kind of approach in your classroom? Why or why not?
  3. Student response: How did the students handle referencing and citation when they were working in a small group after the class? Do you think that your students would handle it in the same way? If not, how could you help them?
Robin Kleiv

The Teaching and Learning Centre has been an invaluable resource for me. After reaching out to express my interest in pursuing research in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL), I was put into contact with Dr. Mary Saudelli. Together we developed a research project and a successful grant application. We are now working on this project with strong support from Teaching and Learning. I am keen to broaden my research in SOTL with the assistance of the Teaching and Learning Centre. Moreover, TLC continually inspires me as I work to hone my skills as an educator.

  • – Robin Kleiv
  •    Physics

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