I have spent five hours this week addressing a single issue of academic dishonesty. The student who presented plagiarized material in an academic essay may have misunderstood the expectation of academic honesty that is placed on scholars.
The essay, presented for evaluation in a freshman literature class, required a careful evaluation of a poem and the development of cogent argument regarding whether the work’s thesis is best presented in verse or prose. A simple assignment: identify the poem’s thesis and present a well-researched set of arguments either in favor of verse or prose as the most effective medium for presenting the thesis.
I have used this assignment in classes over the last three semesters, and while it may at first seem challenging, most students recognize the simplicity of this assignment. Students must research the literary merits and restrictions of verse and prose, then compare and contrast them in the context of the selected work’s thesis.
The student who submitted plagiarized material fell into the trap of many young scholars: using Wikipedia and other Web 2.0 resources for academic research purposes. Rather than restricting the research to sources in the college library, which encourage proper attribution, the student duplicated material from public Web sites.
I argue that if students restrict their resarch to academic sources, they are more likely to properly attribute paraphrased and quoted material. Working in the library encourages good scholastic habits. Even remotely accessing libraries’ digital databases of scholarly articles encourages the mindset required of academic rigor.