My friend Karl Schembri writes in the Malta Today that the University of Malta is to clamp down on plagiarism. “The university’s quality assurance committee is planning to acquire a license to install a plagiarism prevention package on campus so that lecturers could leave the policing for computers and focus more on teaching“.I did not need the short time lecturing at the UOM to note the extent of plagiarism on campus. My experience as a student had already exposed me to the curse and I must confess that one or two late assignments must have been handed in with a little less of my work and a little more of a fellow students’. Not more than that though� and only in the hour of need when the amount of assignments multiplied by the amount of lectures and amount of nights out getting drunk flew totally out of control. Come to think of it I was never proud of these assignments and felt like I was cheating myself. I do not want to seem to be playing the part of a saint � really, assignments were the few areas where you could discipline yourself into learning something out of reading and research without much help from the lecturer involved.
As a lecturer the funniest incident was when I had two assignments submitted to me and discovered that their content was completely lifted from a set of EU Law notes I had written (or abbreviated) myself a few years before.
I have my doubts about this mechanical system about to be introduced. Who will input all assignments for checking? What will happen in areas such as law where areas of reference are still not in electronic form and mostly lie in the tomes of Manzini and Antolisei? The urge to plagiarise also has its roots in excess pressure and more importantly in not having been pointed out the right way to do stuff. Pro-Rector Farrugia would be well advised to further pursue his idea of course work on research methods, referencing and use of citation. I would not stop at Fresher’s Week though. All too often sixth year law students sit down to write their thesis with not a clue in mind about how to cite.