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The simple solution I adopt is to insist on a hard-copy as well as a digitised version, with the former being the definitive version.
 
George.
-----Original Message-----
From: Plagiarism [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Duncan Williamson
Sent: 30 April 2005 06:27
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Determining plagiarism vs. poor study skills

These discussion are going way beyond plagiarism, its causes and solutions now.

 

Whilst I admit that Burkard’s examples are useful, I am left to wonder what goes behind the examples.

 

So I write a cracking dissertation

I use OpenOffice and include everything that’s needed

I didn’t plagiarise

I send the document by email to someone who is using MS Office and footnotes and all attributions are lost

Candidate accused of plagiarism when assessor fails to see attribution

 

At this stage I can see a case for sympathy on the one hand: the candidate is a victim of software incompatibility. On the other hand, who submits final versions by email? It’s just asking for trouble.

 

In my case, my email provider (part of my web site set up) decided to black list all email messages with all attachments from all of its clients. I didn’t know it was doing that: hence none of my attachments were getting through. I lived with messages from friends, students and clients telling me that attachments were missing for a while and then decided to talk to the provider and found out what had happened. Now I am on their white list. Imagine that I had missed a dissertation sub mission deadline in the meantime?

 

Whose responsibility is it THESE DAYS to ensure that all rules, regulations, deadlines, printing, layout … are complied with? How far are teachers and examiners supposed to go before we say, OK I accept that your software chopped off your footnotes and I accept that your email provider had black listed your attachments and you didn’t know it had done that and I accept that your computer caught a virus just before you pressed the send button and I accept that you had to take your daughter to the quack and you were in a tearing hurry.

 

This is getting ridiculous I’m afraid.

 

Duncan

 

 

 


From: George MacDonald Ross [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: 29 April 2005 17:30
Subject: Re: Determining plagiarism vs. poor study skills

 

The second scenario isn't entirely hypothetical. A few months ago a final-year philosophy student had problems sending an essay to me as an attachment in Word (yes, some of my students have never sent attachments before!), and pasted it into an email instead, losing all the footnotes in the process.

 

George.

-----Original Message-----
From: Plagiarism [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Burkard Schafer
Sent: 29 April 2005 13:41
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Determining plagiarism vs. poor study skills

I would again strictly distinguish between the marking of the essay on its academic merits, and disciplinary consequences. As far as the marking is concerned, Plagiarism IS a bad study skill.It is of course always good to give students feedback on what went wrong, but any excuses/explanations by the student are at this stage irrelevant, and a hearing unnecessary.  In this sense plagiarism is not too difference from a student who only uses one (referenced) source. This student too might be able to explain his academic problems, e.g. that  looking after an ill relative prevented him from working more.   These explanations, however reasonable, should never affect the mark as recorded - but the issues can of course be raised, institutional policy permitting, at a later stage in a special circumstances committee or some such. 

  

Very different from this question is the issue of disciplinary sanctions in addition to the poor marks for academic failure.  Here,the point is not that the essay is no good, (because it uses unattributed ideas  from someone else) but that a breach of university regulations has occurred. Here, hearing the student is essential. Whatever worrying ideas and power fantasies Charles Clarke and the rest of the cabinet may have, the right to face your accuser and to question the evidence presented against you are  non-negotiable elements of due process and natural justice.  

 

There are a few conceivable  problem cases with this two stage approach.  They are  rather contrived, but hey its Friday and I just finished a paper about Sherlock Holmes.

 

Scenario 1: while large parts of the essay are word-by -word from an academic article, the student can show that the article plagiarised his (the student's) work, not the other way round (Not too far fetched actually, I did encounter some papers which had an eerie similarity to unpublished work done by doctoral students of the author).

In my two step approach, this would result in unfairly low marks. However, I suppose that if the student is told in the feedback  that a major reason for  the low marks

was use of unattributed material, he could appeal. Note that the issue is NOT one of poor study skills v plagiarism, but a genuine (and inevitable) mistake by the marker 

(interesting variation: the article IS by the student, who since married and changed her name. Self-plagiarism is of course common in academia, but is there a problem if previously published material is later  used for assessed work?)  

 

 

Scenario 2:  In an electronically submitted essay, the student uses an open source software for editing footnotes (hypothetically not prohibited by the regulations)

On the computer of the marker, these footnotes don't show.

Variation: the student can provide irrefutable electronic evidence that the last draft of the paper still had all footnotes. When MSword  reformatted the document for printing, they got lost. As the deadline was imminent, student only flicked over the printout and overlooked the mistake.

 

While in my approach, these two would be arguably valid arguments to avoid disciplinary action, the student would still face rather severe loss of marks for what is at best a minor inattention. The essay AS SUBMITTED was substandard, but for reasons that themselves were not learning outcomes. (use of technology). 

 

I suppose that if these examples show anything at all, then that some discretion needs to be build into any system

 

Burkhard

 

Burkhard Schafer
School of Law
Edinburgh University
Old College
Edinburgh
EH8 9YL
[log in to unmask]
0044-(0)131-6502035
http://www.law.ed.ac.uk/staff/view.asp?ref=69

-----Original Message-----
From: Plagiarism [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Linda Farrall
Sent: 28 April 2005 15:37
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Determining plagiarism vs. poor study skills

I have a question......

 

as a general rule, do this list's members believe that it is best practice to interview a student regarding alleged plagiarism?

 

Or should the decision on whether or not to award a penalty via local regulations be based purely on the work as submitted for assessment, be that in text format / an object of art / a piece of equipment etc?

 

I understand that students must be given the opportunity to be heard by the decision makers; what I am asking is simply:

is there anything that a student might say that would mitigate apparent plagiarism or change a decision from plagiarism to that of poor study skills?

 

Thank you in anticipation

 

PS I accept that a post to this list tends to result in a challenge from another member........ I'm ready for this but can I make it clear (with a smile) that I am asking a question, not giving an opinion?

 

Linda Farrall
Advice Services' Co-ordinator,

Students' Union Advice Centre,
University of the West of England 
www.uwesu.net/advice   Tel:0117 328 2571

 

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