Plagiarism: A Constant Challenge

Story by

Rajeev Verma

From

India

Major/Field

Natural Sciences

Level

Graduate

With the difference in implementation of education in Asia and USA, it takes an international student a while to realize the education system. It also involves a bigger effort that is required to bring in a change of habit to adjust to the difference in the system.

Where I pursued my undergraduate study, plagiarism was not encouraged but it was not really punished. Since the exams were conducted only once a year and the homework was not really good enough to judge if plagiarism has occurred, students used to copy down notes from peers, seniors and from solution manuals. This useful ‘trick’ was advised by seniors and similarly I also advised the same to my juniors.

When I reached the US, during my graduate school orientation I was made to take a test on plagiarism which tested me on various levels and instances where I as a graduate student and a teaching assistant can identify that plagiarism has occurred. The exam was tougher than I thought because it was hard for me to identify instances which can be considered as plagiarism. It was then I realized that rote writing or even speaking without reference and quotations was a serious offense in US academia.

Following this, I was assigned scholarship in the form of teaching assistantship (TA). My instructor for the course gave me the access to software that recognizes plagiarism if and when an undergraduate student submits an assignment online. The software then scans the content available online as well as assignments submitted in the past the software then and present. It then gives the percent of content that has been plagiarized in that particular document. Anything below 15% is considered to be safe and is usually class average for every assignment.

My university is known for diversity and has lot of transfer student from Asia. While grading for the course I realized that many transfer students had submitted assignments that showed plagiarism rising more than 25 percent which was well above the restricted number. I knew that the students were exceptional when they performed in the lab but didn’t actually realize when they plagiarized while submitting the assignment.

I understood that something as serious as this this would really create a lot of problem for them and might put their future in jeopardy. I personally met up with them during my office hours and explained them the seriousness of their mistake. I explained to them that copy and pasting from a website should be strictly avoided and told them to paraphrase the statements followed by referencing it at the bottom of the document. I was really happy that they heard me out because since that meet up they were really careful in their assignments. What made me happier is that it’s been almost a year since that incident and my students still email me about how my meet up was really helpful to them in other courses as well.

My motivation to help them out was purely due to the fact that it could have been me (if I had been transferred from to an undergraduate school) at that moment and that incident could have ruined my future.

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