Plagiarism and the College Student

What is Globe-La Crosse Doing to Aid Students to Avoid Unintentional Plagiarism?

Plagiarism Woordle

Plagiarism Woordle

Is ignorance of the rules an excuse for not following them? Can college students claim that they did not know it was wrong to use another’s ideas or words? How can this be? At what point should a student be held accountable?

As a writing instructor and Master Teacher, it disconcerts me that students feel that using someone else’s ideas or words is different than stealing their iPod or laundering money from a bank. What should students know before entering college to keep them from falling into the plagiarism pitfalls? At a career college, like Globe University, students need to understand from the beginning that even though they may have been out of school for many years, getting into the mindset of school is very important for success. If one begins to write his or her first paper without this mindset, it would be easy to fall prey to “Google-ing” the topic at hand and copying the information verbatim or paraphrased without citation from the first handy source, often Wikipedia.

Furthermore, and even more concerning, is that students—particularly older, non-traditional students—are unaware of what the word “wiki” means. For the tech savvy community, most know that a wiki is a website that contains information that anyone can change. Therefore, Wikipedia is not considered a reputable source, because anyone can alter the information on a whim. There are checks and balances to this system, but there is no way to know if the information you have retrieved from Wikipedia (or other wiki sources) has been checked by their “experts,” since alterations may have been made by someone in the general user community.

What many new students are unaware of is there is help available to them, before they begin and after they have begun. At the beginning of each quarter, The Learning Curve puts on a series of workshops that help new students and current students, who are struggling, to know how they learn best, what good study strategies are, how to use Microsoft Word and basic computer programs, and above all how to avoid plagiarizing. These workshops are scantly attended, but are direly needed by many students. Spending the hour the workshop would consume in the person’s day would save hours in the long run of the student’s academic career and a possibly a failed course if a student inadvertently plagiarizes.

Coming up in May, several workshops are planned to help students acquire awareness to competency in some of the troublesome areas. APA and basic writing skills will be covered in a one hour workshop scheduled for 5/22 and 5/29. Basic Computer Literacy workshops are scheduled for 5/24, 5/28, and 5/29. Please see Ree Nae Roberge-Greene in the Learning Curve if you are interested in signing up for either of these workshops.

For students currently on campus who are working on a paper or project, two times each week there is an hour set aside in the Learning Curve for “APA Ask Ree Nae.” During this time students can come in and ask APA questions to the Student Services Coordinator, who has a bachelor’s degree and practical experience using APA on her Master’s thesis.

When there is no support available for students, one might think that ignorance is an excuse for plagiarism, but when an institution makes several efforts to educate the student both before they begin and after they are in school, the burden falls to the student to know better than to plagiarize.