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Weapons of mouse destruction: a 3D strategy for combating cut-and-paste plagiarism using the JISC Plagiarism Advisory Service

By Ian Martin, Mark Stubbs and Hannah Troop

Abstract

This article describes an action research project undertaken in the Business Information Technology (BIT) subject group of a post-1992 University Business School to combat the growing menace of cut-and-paste plagiarism. The authors regard plagiarism—the passing off as one’s own, the words and ideas of another—as an academic malpractice that should be deterred, detected and dealt with appropriately. We use these three themes, or dimensions, to structure our account here of an expanding portfolio of tools and techniques we have deployed over a period of three years. Recently the Joint Information Systems Committee’s (JISC) Plagiarism Advisory Service (PAS) has become central to our efforts, and whilst it is certainly useful in structuring student perceptions, detecting and highlighting sections of cut and paste, and providing professional disciplinary evidence, we draw attention to the potentially pivotal role it can play in structuring student perceptions of plagiarism. In particular, we advise that the JISC PAS is used carefully as part of a more considered approach to student plagiarism rather than as a quick and easy panacea. Pilot studies carried out across six undergraduate and postgraduate units have revealed a growing awareness, amongst both academic and student enthusiasts, of the strengths and limitations of this service. Potentially, these limitations, combined with the restricted sanctions available according to university regulations, could constitute a small risk that some students may calculate and be willing to take. We feel it is important whilst working within this framework to adopt other complimentary strategies in order to make the wholesale or part copying of another’s work an irrational choice, even for the desperate student. This article draws upon current plagiarism literature, field observations and a survey of plagiarism perceptions conducted on over 150 final year undergraduate students. We present the findings from our ongoing action research in the form of a ‘3D’ strategy that attempts to share best practice in deterring, detecting, and dealing appropriately with cut-and-paste plagiarism. Our findings indicate that students do perceive the JISC PAS as effective across all three dimensions, but this perception can be altered significantly depending upon how the service is presented as part of a broader set of strategies to combat student plagiarism. In particular, we have found that allowing students to see the comparison report output from the JISC PAS, not only heightens student anxiety regarding speculative accusations of plagiarism, but also significantly reduces their confidence in the service as a reliable and effective detection method

Year: 2006
OAI identifier: oai:oro.open.ac.uk:2328
Provided by: Open Research Online

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