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Student plagiarism, cheating increasing


By Joe Ferguson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, September 7, 2004
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A new report released by the Dean of Students Office has academically-based infractions down slightly from the previous year.

According to the report, called the Code of Academic Integrity Summary Report, 300 students were reported to the dean of students for various academic infractions in the 2003-2004 school year.

The report is compiled every year from July 1 - June 30. Violations include plagiarism, copying on tests and using cheat sheets.

Last year, 219 of the 300 students were reported to the Dean of Students Office for plagiarism. This accounts for more than two-thirds of all cases reported to the office.

Academic infractions are reported to the Dean of Students Office by UA faculty after the student has been consulted about the infraction.

In the previous school year, 225 students were reported for plagiarizing, said Alexis Hernandez, associate dean of students.

Hernandez said the sanctions for academic infractions vary, but said most students either receive a reduced grade for the class or no credit for the work in question.

Kathleen Gabriel, a specialist in faculty and teaching assistant development at the University Teaching Center, said she thinks the occurrence of the plagiarism at the UA is higher than the report suggests.

Gabriel cited a Rutgers University study in which 84 percent of students surveyed admitted to academic dishonesty in one form or another.

Gabriel said she believes the difference between the Rutgers study and the new report by the Dean of Students Office can be explained by underreporting of incidents by UA faculty and TAs. She said she believes some professors prefer to work individually with students to resolve the issue rather than reporting the incident to the dean.

"My suspicion is that they are handling it themselves," said Gabriel.

Gabriel said apathy is another factor in the disparity between the Rutgers survey and the Code of Academic Integrity Summary Report.

She cited a recent article in University Affairs, a Canadian publication focusing on higher education, called "Cheating to Win." The article states 32 percent of professors admitted to doing nothing in response to obvious plagiarism.

In the terms of plagiarism, Gabriel said only a small percentage of students cheat intentionally.

"A minority (of students) are bent on cheating," said Gabriel.

Gabriel cited time constraints, fierce competition between students and a lack of understanding of proper citation as reasons why students might plagiarize their work. The UA defines plagiarism as representing the words or ideas of another as one's own.

In the past two years, Gabriel has run a workshop to train faculty and TAs to dissuade cheating in all its forms.

"If we really want to help students, we need to direct students to resources," Gabriel said. "It's incumbent on us to teach them."

Gabriel said in addition to training faculty and TAs, some UA colleges have turned to software to fight plagiarism. She said several colleges have purchased Turnitin.com, a software package that instantly identifies papers containing copied material.

While intentional cheating is a factor at the UA, Gabriel said, it is also important to look at students who do not understand proper citation.

She said she has been surprised by how many incoming freshmen do not understand how to properly use MLA, APA or Chicago-style citation.

Gabriel encourages students interested in learning more about proper citation to use resources for students at the main library. More information can be found at http://www.library.arizona.edu.



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