Close 

Michael Sankey and Caroline Hart discuss plagiarism and why it is an issue in tertiary education

Michael:
Hello, i’m joined today by Caroline Hart from the school of Business and Law in the school of Law and we’re going to be talking about Plagiarism today and what that means for USQ. Caroline, why is Plagiarism important to us here at USQ?

Caroline:
It is important because it’s actually a form of academic misconduct so it’s important that students know what Plagiarism is for a start and how to avoid it. So it is very important that they are taught these details in class so that they can avoid it.

Michael:
Ok, so we as lecturers have a role to play in that?

Caroline:
Very much so because there is alot of uncertainty to what Plagiarism is. There is not much clarity in terms of the definition of it. The USQ website provides a definition of it and it deals with paraphrasing or direct quotation of another persons work without full and clear acknowledgement and I think that that aspect of it, ‘without full and clear acknowledgement’ is a key element of it.

Michael:
So would you actually say there is an obligation upon us?

Caroline:
Definitely yes. Students are not able to do something unless they are clearly taught, how to go about.. you know.. either a particually learning process and that includes how to avoid plagiarism.

Michael:
So if I am a staff member, where would I find or how would I find out more about that?

Caroline:
Well the USQ website, as I said provides a definition of Plagiarism and the USQ also has recommend sources of referencing, including the Harvord method for some students. In the school of Law we use the Australian Guide to Legal Citation and that is very much apart of our teaching. Another method of avoiding Plagiarism is the use of computer software such as Turnitin and again that has to be embedded in the courses and embedded in the teaching so that the students know how to use it and know what kind of result they are going to get. By running their assignments by that computer program, Turnitin.

Michael:
So in reality, is Plagiarism done accidentally or by misunderstanding in what students are supposed to do?

Caroline:
That is a good question Michael. The reasons why students Plagiarise, it can happen accidentally. The internet provides so much material that is very freely available. Any student can cut and paste material into their assignment, they can actually access websites where they can provide their student their assessment material, ask somebody for a fee and to complete that assessment for them and that would also come under the definition of Plagiarism. They can do it because they are over worked, because they are stressed, they are trying to meet a deadline. And I think in talking to students about Plagiarism it is important to discuss some of these reasons why they end up putting in Plagiarised assessment so that they can be for-warned, so that they can be aware that if they are leading to a stressful situation and that they might be tempted to Plagiarise their work, then they can maybe seek some discussion with the lecturer and sort of talk how they are going to deal with that rather than go through the Plagiarism because they are stressed. I’d just like to make another point on that Michael, if you don’t mind and that is that plagiarism actually occurs in some of the top areas, politics, judges have been known to have plagiarised judgements, politicians have been known to Plagiarise their own speeches and they become very high profile in terms of being embarrassing situations and their reputation. So in terms of why it is important for students to talk about Plagiarism and to be aware of it because it can become a habit. If it is something that you can get away with that University, then it may be something that they continue on into their professional lives. So it is really important to deal with it while we have students within our learning and teaching environment.

Michael:
So in that case is it really our responsibility for us as lecturers to report this if we come across it?

Caroline:
Well I think the responsibility is before it is an issue, so as we were talking about before, teaching students in the calm controlled environment of the classroom, giving them the skills, being understanding about how it occurs and in terms of reporting it after the event, then yes, I think we need to have sanctions and then we have to come down on them really heavily. You can do that with integrity as a lecturer if you feel that you have taught the students appropriately and they’re still dismissive of it then I think we need to have sanctions and enforcement.

Michael:
So the best policy though is, forewarned is forearmed.

Caroline:
Absolutely, yes.

Michael:
Well, thankyou very much.

Caroline:
My pleasure Michael, thankyou.