Re-writing the script : supporting academic integrity the library way!
2008-12-23T16:45:55Z (GMT) by
An article published in the Guardian Newspaper this week asserted that: 'However much we warn students of the dire consequences of plagiarism, some continue to take the risk, partly because the consequences tend not to be so dire after all …’ Wolff, J. (2006). The article then went on to reveal that a growing number of universities are 'turning to agencies that claim to be able to detect plagiarism by sophisticated electronic searches’. Wolff, J. (2006). The two messages that come across from the article are that, combating plagiarisms is best achieved by putting fear into students; a don’t do it or else approach. The second message suggests that the punishment is not meeting the crime. These messages are becoming more and more accepted yet there is little proof of their effectiveness, indeed other approaches may yield better results. So as the dramas of plagiarism are increasingly played out on centre stage isn’t it time to re-write the script? Combating plagiarism has become a major issue for Higher Education and not only in the UK. At the 2nd Asia-Pacific Educational Integrity Conference in Australia in December 2005 a great deal was said about policy. The main points were that institutions need to have transparent policies and practices relating to educational integrity. The punishment structures and penalties must also be transparent. Policies must be written in plain English, easy for all students to understand. Institutions should aim to build a culture where cheating is not acceptable. These are all excellent points but there were two which stood out above the others: 1. a culture of crime and punishment does not foster learning 2. good policy is necessary but not sufficient in tackling plagiarism issues The first point was addressed several times during the conference. Systems have to be in place to punish those few who deliberately set out to cheat. Institutions however, appear to be finding difficulty with creating policies and procedures that allow mistakes to be made, lessons to be learned, without appearing to allow ‘students to get away with it’ This problem could be helped by the second point. Policy is required most certainly, but if students are simply told they must not plagiarise or terrible things will happen to them, then that institution’s policy is ultimately doomed.In re-writing our script we can change the emphasis of our play. Instead of pointing out the dire consequences of plagiarism we need to help students to understand that by not plagiarising they are enhancing their own learning experience, their academic credibility and developing the knowledge and skills for their future careers and personal development. Dangle the carrot rather than swing the stick - provide the tools to understand and avoid plagiarism while at the same time nourishing a sense of pride and satisfaction within the student. New scene, enter the library (stage left!) This is the point at which Librarians can help. By providing a good Information Literacy programme that teaches students to understand how to find and evaluate information, what plagiarism is, how to reference their work appropriately. Librarians can assist students to understand their responsibility regarding the use of information. This paper will look at how libraries in two institutions are supporting and collaborating with academics to provide a holistic approach to countering plagiarism, outlining practical examples of tactics and strategies that provide dramatic improvement. This is an innovative approach which creates a happy and constructive ending to the play.