Plagiarism

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.

To conclude I remember very well one of the quotes on the opening pages of my LL.D. thesis� “to bring Montaigne to my defence …I quote others only to better express myself“.

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6 responses to “Plagiarism

  1. When I was a second-year we were given an assignment to write a few pages about how screw threads are made.

    There wasn’t much material available, online or otherwise, and our lecturer discovered some plagiarism by googling phrases from paragraphs that didn’t seem like they were written by 2nd-year engineering students… he then gave the entire class a lecture that some still refer to today 🙂

    I’d say that most of the plagiarism I’ve seen is copy-and-paste from the internet, rather than copied from other students’ work.

    As regards the anti-plagiarism software, inputting assignments shouldn’t be so bad because we have to type them anyway, so students would be required to hand in a floppy disc/CD with their work on it (we already have to do this for computer-related assignments, for example). I suppose that copying from the Internet and copying from students would be covered, but as you said, how to detect plagiarism from books?

    Oh well…

  2. Jacques René Zammit

    Yes. I did used to google paragraphs from assignments too. It did help. However I hesitate to penalise the student attitude if the right structure is not put in place to teach the proper way to use sources. On the other hand, it should be evident to any student that taking a Harvard Ph.D paper and using it for 80% of an assignment should be a no-no.

  3. Now speaking as a student who’s never stepped on the Uni grounds (at least for academic purposes)… so I can blame it all on my lack of experience if the following will be classified as pure nonsense.

    What are they referring to with “plagiarism”? The act of applying the cut-and-paste wonder a’ la salva??a, or the fact that students are expected not to quote other material but have to come up with something of their own instead?

    I was tempted to ask this in the light of a recent incident which made the rounds of the blogosphere lately, and this point was mentioned a couple of times in the never-ending comments.

    By the way, these anti-plagiarism software applications have been used abroad for ages. They seem to be very popular in the USA, from what I can gather. I also remember a recent study concerning some university in Sydney (if I’m not mistaken, insomma, l-Awstralja ?gur) which found some alarming rate of plagiarism and somehow, turnitin.com came to the rescue.

  4. Not Only at UOM.com

    Essays-for-sale ‘a growth area’ -BBC News

    More and more students are plagiarising material – and buying essays online, a BBC investigation suggests.

    The boss of a firm selling coursework to students has admitted that her work “belittles the whole education system”.

    Dorit Chomer runs one of several companies that trade in “off-the-peg” and custom-written academic work.

    “I’m using my brain so they can sit in the bar and use whatever faculty they want to use,” Dorit Chomer said.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4445357.stm

  5. Tanja Cilia

    “… 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…”

    Well, my colleagues who were taking the Kindergarten Assistant course lent me photocopies of MY OWN notes, with my name tippexed out, which the lecturers had given them… together with a couple of my newspaper articles (without a name) on relevant topics. I can only assume that one of the people to whom I had lent them before, passed them on… let’s both take it as a left-handed compliment, Jacques, meaning that we can write well enough for our work to be stolen…

  6. Sorry Tania but this post is 5 years old. I don’t think that Kenneth is still blogging and that is why you cannot access the site. This akkuza site is actually no longer updated and you may find j’accuse at http://www.akkuza.com.

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