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Learning Center Experience
are clearly aware of the need to give appropriate credit when using sources,
many of our students are much less aware of the rules regarding when and how to
cite. Certainly, the Internet has blurred the perception of "intellectual
property" to the point that many students may think of anything on the web
as "public property" that anyone can use.
Donald McCabe’s 3-year survey of
undergraduate and graduate students in the US from 2002 to 2005 revealed that over 1/3 of undergraduate students acknowledged that they copied sentences
from written and internet sources without providing citations (as cited in
“Facts and Stats,” 2014). Therefore, one
of the most critical skills faculty can teach students is that whenever they
borrow someone else's ideas, whether taken from a textbook, blog post, or
academic journal, they need to give that person credit using the citation
style required by their institution or department and represent that writer’s
ideas fairly and coherently.
universities, including Kaplan University, use plagiarism detection services
like Turnitin.com to find the most egregious cases of intellectual
property theft, such as the use of “paper mill” essays or large cut-and-paste
passages from websites. Some companies are now even using plagiarism detection
services for their websites, hoping to avoid theft of content they have created
However, educators need to teach students that why we cite sources
goes beyond the avoidance of plagiarism. If writers can demonstrate that they
have done solid research, that enhances their credibility with readers. Providing
proper citations ensures our readers can find the sources and do further
research, if desired. Finally, the citations link our work to a
larger conversation that we are contributing to by researching and writing
on a particular subject, whether for a class or a business project. Perhaps
most importantly, students cannot learn to write well if all they do is
cobble together the words of other writers.
While students may understand they need to cite
sources, many struggle with paraphrasing the ideas of those sources into their
own words. Like many aspects of writing, effective paraphrasing is a habit.
It’s also a higher-order skill, and it is a mistake not to teach it this way.
When we provide instructions like “don’t keep the original language,” it is an
important detail but not the actual goal of paraphrasing. The goal of
paraphrasing is to translate the meaning of the original in a writer’s own
wording and structure. When educators begin at the sentence level, we do a
disservice to students. Not only are we setting them up for plagiarism problems,
we are also failing to teach them this higher-order thinking.
Anyone can tell you what something says. A
student could read you a physics textbook out loud and maybe even pronounce all
of the words correctly. He or she might even end up memorizing some of it to
say back to you without looking back at the text. However, this doesn’t mean
that the student has any idea what he or she is saying.
Now imagine the student
tries to paraphrase it with a focus on meaning first. He or she is forced to
interact with the purpose and content of the text. When a student understands
this material, he or she can then explain it to someone else. Through this
understanding, students create effective paraphrases. Discovering the meaning
is the most difficult task. Thereafter, the restructuring and language changes
are much more manageable. In fact, many students note this is the easy part
now. By working outward from meaning, students also see that writing is much
more than reporting and repeating.
When a student can explain something to
themselves, it is a less difficult leap to explain it to someone else. This
also emphasizes voice since students see that their own contributions to the
research are worthwhile. It’s important to reinforce that while the paraphrase
requires a citation, their follow-up analysis and discussion points belong to
them. Essentially, thorough paraphrasing not only prevents plagiarism; it also
reaffirms critical-thinking skills and reminds students that writing is far
more often a discussion than a report.
Facts and stats.
(2014). Plagiarism.org. Retrieved
from http://www.plagiarism.org/resources/facts-and-stats/ http://www.plagiarism.org/resources/facts-and-stats/
Wilson, G. (2016, March 12). How
digital plagiarism detection of your content protects your business. Business
2 Community. Retrieved from http://www.business2community.com/content-marketing/digital-plagiarism-detection-content-protects-business-01481506#W1HIfI6PTGoAWf0y.97
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