Plagiarism continues to be an issue in college studies

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(Joshua Arief Halim / Daily Titan)

Sharon Sekhon, faculty member from the University Honors Program, said she once caught a student in her online Asian-American women’s history class plagiarizing a book review Sekhon had written.

“I started reading it and I’m like ‘This is great writing, wow,’” Sekhon said. “No wonder I thought it was great, it’s my writing. The person was too lazy to even check the name at the top of the book review.”

Surveys conducted between 2002 and 2015 by the International Center for Academic Integrity gathered data on cheating among college undergraduates excluding first years, and two year schools.

Of the 71,300 undergraduate students who responded to the survey, 39 percent admitted to cheating on tests and 62 percent admitted to cheating on written assignments.

According to the Cal State Fullerton Student Conduct website, plagiarism is defined as “the act of taking the work … of another whether that work is paraphrased or copied in verbatim or near verbatim form and offering it as one’s own without giving credit to that source.”

Sekhon said there are obvious indicators when a student is not using their own words in a paper.

“Often you can tell by the quality of the language and the consistency of the language. You will have one paragraph that is really elegantly written, with really sophisticated language, and then the following paragraph will be much simpler,” Sekhon said. “I can also tell by use of evidence. I think about the argument they are trying to make.

CSUF has developed its own academic policy involving the issue of plagiarism. Responsibility is left to the faculty member, who can assess a grade penalty for the student. However, the faculty member is required to report the incident to Student Conduct.

From there, the student will have a chance to appeal their grade penalty. After further review, that student may be prone to probation, suspension or even expulsion, according to the Student Conduct website.

Frank Russell, communications professor, said students may not even know they are plagiarizing. While the plagiarism may be accidental, the consequences remain the same.

“It’s still plagiarism if it’s from someone else, if it’s not your words; it’s still plagiarism regardless of whether you meant it to be plagiarism,” Russell said.  

CSUF’s Student Conduct website includes tips on how to avoid plagiarism like re-reading over work to make clear what ideas are specifically the student’s and what are not.

The key, according to Russell, is attribution. He said it is critical to give credit where it is due and that a lot of trouble can be avoided by simply stating the source of information.

Any fact, any opinion — you need to show where that information came from,” Russell said.

“If you are using someone’s exact words, not only do you need to use attribution, but you need to put direct quotes within quotation marks or put exact quotes within quotation marks.”  

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