Time, when plagiarism really matters
In the United States, plagiarism is considered highly inexcusable. For international students, many of whom come from contexts where plagiarism is not regularly discussed misunderstanding the rules of academic honesty can be extremely traumatising.
While in graduate school in the United States (US), a friend once plagiarised while writing her master’s thesis without even knowing it. Although she had cited her sources, she also needed to paraphrase ideas. In response to her actions, her professor required her to completely rewrite her entire literature review section. My friend had to restart-back to square one for a mistake she did not realise was plagirism. This happened just before graduation. She had to stay in the library for hours upon hours—rummaging through her work for many late nights. The experience left her traumatised. Succumbed by shame and stress, she claims it was one of the most painful experiences of her life.
International students often talk about cultural differences between their current environments and their home countries. Most often these topics pertain to family, food, dress, housing and time zone differences. But they miss a crucial difference: academic writing ethics across cultures. Although less discussed, academic writing practices across cultures constitutes one of the most significant elements of cultural difference.
International students in universities in the US can feel overwhelmed by unfamiliar academic practices.
Zero tolerance to plagiarism is a strict norm among US universities and professors. If caught plagiarising, students are subject to serious penalties— ranging from failing paper grades to expulsion. The international students’ unfamiliarity with writing ethics in such an environment is not considered justifiable. It’s not excused. This leaves the students charged hefty plagiarism fines.
Students in US universities are often reminded to comply with an honor code of academic honesty. They encounter this reminder almost everywhere: in the policy documents of the institution, program handbooks, course syllabi, and in classrooms while being given individual assignments. Despite all these efforts by universities, the internet has encouraged the ever-so-frequent practice of ‘when in doubt, copy and paste,’ which is common among students and even academicians. Universities use plagiarism detecting software to combat this practice.
Article Credit: Kunti Adhikari