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Deterring plagiarism


16 July 2003

Plagiarism is on the rise in the world’s universities and while it can’t be stopped, it can be deterred, according to visiting British academic, Jude Carroll, who’s at Southern Cross University (SCU) as part of an international lecture tour.

Jude Carroll is a senior lecturer and fulltime course leader for the postgraduate certificate in teaching in higher education at Oxford Brookes University. She has been researching plagiarism for the last four years. Ms Carroll said the reason for increasing concern worldwide about plagiarism is because of the World Wide Web.

“The Web offers enormous cut and paste possibilities and that’s by far the most common way that students use it,” Ms Carroll said.

“There are about 350,000 academic essays for sale out there, although most of them are terrible, poor value for money and very dated. There are also ghost-writing services, where you get someone to write your essay for you,” she said.

“We are finding that international students are over-represented in plagiarism statistics because changes in style and prose are much easier to detect in their work due to language differences. Where international students have already paid a vast amount for their courses, a few hundred dollars more for an essay may be no matter,” Ms Carroll said.

Jude Carroll has written what many consider the first authoritative book on plagiarism, A Handbook for Deterring Plagiarism in Higher Education, which draws on empirical evidence to suggest why students do it and to recommend how staff can effectively deter plagiarism. The deterrence strategy is a five-point plan that includes suggestions for making cheating more difficult as well as offering tips on detection and punishment methods.

“What’s new about my book is the holistic approach towards dealing with plagiarism. At the moment the amount of plagiarism that comes from students misunderstanding academic rules and conventions far outweighs the amount arising from fraud, so one thing we need to do is to induct students more effectively into the rules and conventions of academic writing.”

Ms Carroll described plagiarism as poisonous for its effect in devaluing a university education.

“Plagiarism threatens the heart and soul of academia, because potentially what students can get into is believing that higher education is not about learning, it’s just about jumping through hoops, about getting that piece of paper and the personal status that goes with it. Plagiarism breeds a culture that’s not about education changing you or making you a better person,” Ms Carroll said.

Ms Carroll’s lecture tour of Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia includes teaching academics about the opportunities deterring plagiarism presents in designing courses to benefit learning and foster original research.

“The best thing to come out of the plagiarism debate is how it opens up discussions about learning,” she said.

“Deterring plagiarism can open up possibilities to design courses better, to encourage students to analyse and discuss their studies. For years academics wouldn’t talk to me about course design and learning, but because of plagiarism, now they do. Plagiarism is like a Trojan horse that gets me into those discussions.”

SCU’s Teaching and Learning centre is hosting Jude Carroll’s workshop ‘Deterring Plagiarism,’ which will be held on Thursday 17th July, 2003, from 3.00 - 5.00 in the Teaching and Learning Centre Meeting Room on the Lismore Campus in Z Block, room 1.90.

Media: Jude Carroll will be on the north coast for another week, and in Australia until the end of the month. For more information contact Sara Crowe or Kath Duncan in SCU’s media liaison unit, Ph: 6620 3144.