To Whom It May Concern,
Plagiarism has become a great issue on college campuses, specifically San Francisco State University, mainly encouraged by the easy access students have to works and information on the internet. College students are dealing with a lot of things such as work, family, and school work that cause them to be stressed out as well as low on time. Not wanting to stress out about a paper as well as not spend a lot of time on it, students choose the plagiarize by copying and pasting texts from internet sources and passing them off as their own, and other ways. These factors, as well others such as background, student motivations and extra-curricular activities, have been shown to be reasons why many college student plagiarize, as researched by philanthropist Susan Blum and myself, a college student. Although the university cannot control these factors, there are some things that they can do to not only bring more light unto the situation, but also to turn it into a learning experience.
One thing that professors and instructors could do is explain their plagiarism policy in greater detail in the beginning of the semester so that students will know from the beginning of the class. When I conducted interviews for a research assignment on plagiarism and how it relates to student motivations, many of the interviewees said that they were never told the plagiarism policy for their class. A few interviewees said that their instructor did talk to them a little about plagiarism, but it was done very briefly with no thorough explanation of what is considered plagiarism to the instructor, which left students with a grey area. Having a more distinctive outline in the syllabus for the class will not only clarify the policy for students, they will also be able to relate back to it during the remainder of the course. Another thing that the University could do is hold workshops at the beginning of the semester that would provide resources on how to properly cite as well as do research up to the institution’s code. Providing workshops would allow students to be able to know exactly what is expected of them through their academic careers, that way students would not know and receive clarity about the University’s expectations.
It is important that students who attend San Francisco State University know and understand what it means to plagiarize. There are so many different ways to plagiarize, such as copying someone else’s idea and not giving them credit, and letting someone else edit you work with their words, which is why it is plausible that students are sometimes confused. Also, many instructors’ ideas and what is considered as plagiarism are different from one another, which is why it is important for every instructor to let their students know what constitutes as plagiarism and make sure that it coincides with the Universities definition. An example of how unclear explanations of what they constitute as plagiarism or not are problematic and confusing to students happened to me here at San Francisco State University. One of my professors said that it is ok to re-use a paper that we [the students] have already written because it is our own work, and so I did so in another class. However, another one of my professors said that it was not ok to do so, and if I would have the instructor would know because they could use “Turn it in,” a database that can show rather or not a text has been plagiarized or not, and counted it as plagiarism. Another disputable type of plagiarism is patch writing, which scholar Diane Pecorari encourages teachers to teach students, especially ELS students, because it helps writers find and create their own voice (Pecorari, 317-345). However, some instructors may argue that patch writing is another form of plagiarism, which is why it is important that instructors let students know what they view as plagiarism.
If students decide to ignore the instructor’s policies of plagiarism and improper citations, the students should be dealt with accordingly. If the student forgot to properly cite once or twice in their paper, they should not receive an automatic fail on the assignment, which most instructors do. Instead, the instructor should point out the student’s mistake, and take a couple of points off because it was probably done by accident. If the student improperly or does not cite a source on three different occasions, after being warned by the instructor, the student should receive a fail on the assignment. This penalty will motivate students to be more cautious when citing in all of the academic courses, which will benefit both the student and other instructors they have. However, if a student is caught copying entire paragraphs or pages of texts verbatim, they should be dropped from the class and put on probation. Many universities have a very strict plagiarism policy where if the student is caught once cheating, they are kicked out of the university. This policy is a bit harsh because it does not take into consideration the fact that the student might be a onetime offender, which is why if a student is caught plagiarizing like that on two separate occasions, they should get kicked out of the university. If students were given another chance after violating the plagiarism policy for copying large texts, they would not be prone to do it again because they know that the next time they do it, they will be getting kicked out of the university.
San Francisco State University needs to work closely with its professors in order to change its plagiarism policies. This is because the policy that is in affect right now is confusing to many students because it varies and sometimes contradicts that of the instructors. Hopefully these suggestions will prove beneficial in doing so and the university realizing the plagiarism is a problem. Thank you for your time.
Pecorari, Diane. "Good and Original: Plagiarism and Patchwriting in Academic Second-Language Writing." Volume 12 Issue 4: Journal of Second Language Writing (2003).
English 114 Research Assignment: Student Motivations. Pdf File