Teaching Students to Avoid Plagiarism in Writing in the ICT and Digital World: Lessons from Catching an African Ph.D-Holding Senior Lecturer Plagiarist


(A presentation paper originally; by one NEB; left as such)

INTRODUCTION

Plagiarism is more rampant and pervasive today. Not only students but also lecturers commit plagiarism. This is especially so in today’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and digital world with the culprit simply finding information from various online sources applying the techniques of ‘download and save’, ‘copy and paste’, and ‘block, copy, and paste’ all easily leading to stealing other people’s writing works. Taking the case of plagiarism seemingly committed by an African Ph.D-holding senior lecturer towards the writer and his partner’s published article, the writer formulates the research questions as follows:

  1. On the surface level, what are the explicit signs suggesting that the said plagiarism has been committed?
  2. Specifically, what categories of plagiarism have been committed?
  3. Are there interesting points to note regarding the said committed plagiarism in addition to No. 2?

Plagiarism focused, there are some working definitions that can be adopted as a starting point to analyze whether a given piece of work at hand is plagiarized or not. Starting with a common agreement that plagiarism is the act of taking another person’s writing works without proper due acknowledgement, the writer further renders the following specific definitions from some experts taken from Fish and Hura (2013) in the section that follows:

Plagiarism is the act of taking “one or more passages that was word-for-word the same as another source without appropriate citation and quotation marks” (Belter and DuPre 2009: 259). In other words, plagiarism is “using parts, or the whole, of a text written by another person without acknowledgement; submitting the same paper or parts of it, for credit in more than one course, falsification of information” (Colnerud and Rosander 2009: 506). Similarly, plagiarism is “presenting, as one’s own, the ideas or words of another person or persons for academic evaluation without proper acknowledgement” (Hard, Conway, and Moran 2006: 1059). Put in another way, “plagiarism involves literary theft, stealing (by copying) the words or ideas of someone else and passing them off as one’s own without crediting the source” (Park 2003: 472). Simply put, plagiarism is “us[ing] somebody else’s work (words and thoughts) without attribution” (Wang 2008: 743).

The significance of the research is that it can be used to prevent the practice of plagiarism especially among students, which is very urgent to do amidst the common practice of their finding information online in this ICT and digital world. Students can be trained to have confidence in writing their own ideas and using others’ only with acknowledgement to support or contradict their own ideas.

METHOD

Undertaking this research, the writer employed the document analysis research design. This was especially adopted because the suspected committed plagiarism was done in a written document, namely, another article that the plagiarist wrote and had published in 2 international journals! Basically, document analysis is a form of qualitative research in which documents are interpreted by the researcher to give voice and meaning around an assessment topic (Bowen 2009: 1). Given the research object at hand, the assessment topic investigated was plagiarism. The writer himself served as a primary data-gathering instrument (Lincoln and Guba 1985 in Alwasilah 2002: 78). To make sense of the data collected, the writer employed the introspective-analytical method (Alwasilah 2002: 69), by which he analyzed the written data as to find the act of plagiarism committed.

There are various aspects that can be analyzed in a plagiarized text. Among others, they are the kinds or forms of plagiarism and the manner of the plagiarism act as to whether it is intentional or unintentional. In this research, the writer sought to reveal the former, that is, the kinds or forms of plagiarism committed by the plagiarist. He brought it to serve the following research objectives:

  1. to show some explicit signs suggesting that the said plagiarism occurred.
  2. to reveal the kinds or forms of plagiarism committed.
  3. to show interesting points to note regarding the said committed plagiarism in addition to No. 2.

The document in question was the writer and his partner’s article titled “Local Pragmatic Norms in Students’ English: An Identity to Unleash” (Antoni and Gunawan 2010), published in the ISBN-bearing Proceeding of the 19th MELTA International Conference 2010 in 2010. It was plagiarized by this African Ph.D-holding senior lecturer (to be addressed here as N from this point on) years later. Bearing the very same title, it was sent for publication by N and ‘amazingly’ published in 2 international journals, respectively, the International Journal of Strategic Research in Education, Technology and Humanities in 2015 and the African Research Review in 2017. This act of plagiarism was easily found because the said 2 journals are online journals and because the writer regularly checks his published articles for possible online postings by the conference committee or proceeding using Google search. Therefore, plagiarized works posted online bearing resemblance to his articles can also be spotted.

For the purpose of this research, the writer utilized only one plagiarized article, that is, the one published the latest in the African Research Review in 2017. To collect the data, first the plagiarized document was downloaded from the said journal in which it was published. It was then scanned on a surface look to see whether there was observed general resemblance to the original article. It would later be analyzed grounded on the following detailed kinds or forms of plagiarism:

  1. Copy and paste plagiarism—this is verbatim copying the text from the source without acknowledging the original authors using quotation marks.
  2. Word switch plagiarism—this is the type of plagiarism where the plagiarist takes a sentence from the source and changes a few words without acknowledging the source.
  3. Style plagiarism—this is copying another author’s style of reasoning by taking sentence-by-sentence organization of his thoughts.
  4. Metaphor plagiarism—this is the type of plagiarism where someone uses the creative style of someone else to present his ideas without crediting the original author of the creative style.
  5. Idea plagiarism—this is the practice where you take someone’s idea or solution proposed by another person and using it as your own creativity without    crediting the author.
  6. Plagiarism of authorship—this is a form of plagiarism where the student directly puts his name on someone else’s work (Ali et. al. 2011, Barnbaum 2006, Clough 2003 in Anney and Mosha 2015: 205), and
  1. Clone: an act of submitting another’s work, word-for-word, as one’s own.
  2. CTRL-C: a written piece that contains significant portions of text from a single source without alterations.
  3. Find-replace: the act of changing key words and phrases but retaining the essential content of the source in a paper.
  4. Remix: an act of paraphrasing from other sources and making the content fit together seamlessly.
  5. Recycle: the act of borrowing generously from one’s own previous work without citation; to self-plagiarize.
  6. Hybrid: the act of combining perfectly cited sources with copied passages— without citation—in one paper.
  7. Mashu: a paper that represents a mix of copied material from several different sources without proper citation.
  8. 404 error: a written piece that includes citations to non-existent or inaccurate information about sources.
  9. Aggregator: the “aggregator” includes proper citation, but the paper contains almost no original work.
  10. Re-Tweet: this paper includes proper citation, but relies too closely on the text’s original wording and/or structure (plagiarism.org 2012, Turnitin 2012: 4 in Anney and Mosha 2015: 205).

From the above definitions of plagiarism, its kinds and forms, the writer summarized the following to be used to analyze the above said plagiarism, i.e., plagiarism can take the following kinds or forms:

  1. taking sentences verbatim.
  2. taking parts of an article verbatim.
  3. taking a whole article verbatim.
  4. taking sentences changing, modifying, omitting, or re-arranging key words or phrases, or clauses while maintaining the original meaning.
  5. taking parts of an article changing, modifying, omitting, or re-arranging key words, phrases, clauses, sentences, or paragraphs while maintaining a large section of the parts.
  6. taking a whole article changing, modifying, omitting, or re-arranging key words, phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs, or parts while retaining a large portion of the article.

To analyze the data, in the absence of a plagiarism-detecting software, the technique used was to compare suspected plagiarized parts with the original ones rendered in simple tables. This technique could easily be used because it could be seen on the surface that N plagiarized the original text almost verbatim. The plagiarizing acts or manners found were categorized into the above 6 kinds or forms of plagiarism.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

1.1 Signs of Apparent Plagiarism

Basically N stole the whole article. She even retained the title of the article “Local Pragmatic Norms in Students’ English: An Identity to Unleash”. She just changed, modified, omitted, or re-arranged parts here and there to suit her context of ‘research’. This kind of plagiarism falls into category 6 above. As such, without using any plagiarism-detecting software, the writer could easily find her acts of plagiarism by comparing the plagiarized parts with the original ones.

1.2. Kinds or Forms of Plagiarism Committed

The following section discusses some extracts taken randomly in a chronological order from the plagiarized article as compared with those from the original one:

Table 1

Plagiarized Original
Local Pragmatic Norms in Students’ English: An Identity to Unleash (N 2017). Local Pragmatic Norms in Students’ English: An Identity to Unleash (Antoni and Gunawan 2010).

It can be seen from table 1 that N maintained the title of the original article. She took the title verbatim. She did not change any word, key word, or phrase at all. This act of plagiarism falls into category 1.

Table 2 A

Plagiarized Original
English has grown into a global language shared by people in diverse places of the world; and by definition, can no longer be rightly described as the belonging to one nation or a small group of nations claiming it to be their native language. Considering the different needs that African learners have in learning English and the different functions that English serves in the African Region, it is strongly suggested that at least three points below be accommodated in the region English curriculum to be specified at the levels of phonology, lexis and grammar, as well as elements of communicative competence all aimed at training learners to develop language functions needed for both inter- and intra-group communication, especially across national boundaries. This paper first discussed the meaning and nature of pragmatic norms. Then it revealed the local pragmatic norms of various kinds, which students usually incorporate into their use of English. It further argued to what extent these local pragmatic norms can or can not be justifiably adopted. Finally it proposed ways to best deal with these local pragmatic norms at their occurrences (N 2017).

 

English is now a global language shared by people all over the world, the existence of which—by definition—can no longer be rendered to any one nation or group claiming it to be their native language. Citing McArthur (1992), Li writes, “…English is the possession of every individual and every community that in any way uses it, regardless of what any other individual or community may think or feel about the matter” (1999: 1).

Considering the different needs that Asia-Pacific learners have in learning English and the different function that English serves in Asia-Pacific Region, Li strongly suggests that at least three points below be accommodated in the region English curriculum to be specified at the levels of phonology, lexis and grammar, as well as elements of communicative competence all aimed at training learners to develop language functions needed for both inter- and intra-group communication, especially across national boundaries.

Dwelling on the above taking the context of Indonesia based on Antoni and Radiana (2001), Antoni and Gunawan (2005), and Antoni and Zuraida (2010), this paper firstly seeks to discuss the meaning and nature of pragmatic norms. Then it reveals the local pragmatic norms of various kinds students usually incorporate into their English and English use, giving examples of the case. It next argues to what extent these local pragmatic norms can or can not be justifiably adopted. Finally it proposes ways to best deal with these local pragmatic norms at their occurrences (Antoni and Gunawan 2010).

 

The original section above in the original article was the introduction. N made it her abstract. While taking a large portion of the section verbatim, she changed, modified, omitted, or re-arranged any word, key word, phrase, clause, sentence, paragraph, or part she deemed necessary as follows:

Table 2 B

Plagiarized Original
Has grown into Is now
In diverse places of All over
; and by this definition, The existence of which
Rightly described as the belonging to Rendered to any one
A small group of nations group
(the right-column section omitted; space occupied by the following:) Considering …. Boundaries Citing… (1999: 1)
African Asia-Pacific
Functions function
The African region Asia-Pacific Region
It is strongly suggested Li strongly suggests
(the right-column section omitted; space occupied by the following:) This paper… occurrence Dwelling… 2010
First discussed Firstly seeks to discuss
Revealed reveals
, which (no relative pronoun)
Use of English English and English use
(this omitted) Giving example of the case
Further argued Next argues
Proposed proposes

It can be seen from table 2 B that N, while retaining a large part of the section, changed in it words or phrases (e.g. “is now” into “has grown into”), clauses (e.g. (no relative pronoun) into “, which”), sentences (e.g. “Li strongly suggests” into “It is strongly suggested”); she modified or moderated words or phrases (e.g. “proposes” into “proposed”); she omitted parts (e.g. “giving examples of the case” into none); and she re-arranged parts (e.g. She omitted “Citing… (1999: 1)” and fitted “Considering …. Boundaries”, and she made the article’s introduction become her abstract). As such, this kind of plagiarism falls into categories 1, 2, 4, and 5.

Table 3 A

Plagiarized Original
Adopting Aziz’ (2001) areas in which signs of Indonesian English similar to Nigeria English may be traced, we can easily say that students’ presentate, I am agree, I have to take my mother to the hospital, and I am flu are examples of mistake in grammar; students’ I want to go to the bathroom, I want to explain…, are examples of mistake in lexis; and students’ where are you going?, I want to thank God for the opportunity given to me to present this essay…, I am sorry if I made mistakes in my presentation. Mistakes are from me, the truth is from God…are examples of ‘mistake’ in discourse strategies.

The question is: which ones are to be corrected and which are to be understood as pragmatically typical of Nigerian and therefore to be tolerated? I would argue that mistakes in grammar and lexis must be corrected no matter how easily they persist to occur. Given the above examples, the teacher should explain that the correct forms are present, I agree, I had to take my mother to the hospital (the use of past tense), I am having a flu (the use of have a + illness), and I need to go to the bathroom and I would like to explain…(the use of want vis a vis need and would like).

As for the ‘mistake’ in discourse strategies, depicted in students’ where are you going?, I want to thank God for the opportunity given to me to present this essay…, I am sorry if I made mistakes in my presentation. Mistakes are from me, the truth is from God…, they should be understood as typically pragmatic (that is, of Nigerian, Indonesian—even Africa and Asia—norms and values of culture) and therefore tolerated and accepted. But the teacher should explain that it is not commonly spoken by native speakers of English. The teacher should continue explaining that educated native speakers of English will understand it and students should therefore not feel uneasy about it.

Concerning that, Kirkpatrick (2000) asserts that speakers of a new variety of English will want to preserve their identity, and the reflection of their pragmatic and cultural norms in the local variety of English is an important way of doing this. Below is an example of English-translated Hausa dialogue, provided by Amina Muhammad, an ex student at Madonna University, Okija, Nigeria who is a Hausa (N 2017).

 

Adopting Aziz’ (2001) areas in which signs of Indonesian English may be traced, we can easily say that students’ presentate, I am agree, I have to take my mother to the hospital, and I am flu are examples of mistake in grammar; students’ I want to go to the bathroom, I want to explain…, are examples of mistake in lexis; and students’ where are you going?, I want to thank God for the opportunity given to me to present this essay…, I am sorry if I made mistakes in my presentation. Mistakes are from me, the truth is from God…are examples of ‘mistake’ in discourse strategies.

The question is: which ones are to be corrected and which are to be understood as pragmatically typical of Indonesian and therefore to be tolerated? I would argue that mistakes in grammar and lexis must be corrected no matter how easily they persist to occur. Given the above examples, the teacher should explain that the correct forms are present, I agree, I had to take my mother to the hospital (the use of past tense), I am having a flu (the use of have a + illness), and I need to go to the bathroom and I would like to explain…(the use of want vis a vis need and would like).

As for the ‘mistake’ in discourse strategies, depicted in students’ where are you going?, I want to thank God for the opportunity given to me to present this essay…, I am sorry if I made mistakes in my presentation. Mistakes are from me, the truth is from God…, they should be understood as typically pragmatic (that is, of Indonesian—even Asian—norms and values of culture) and therefore tolerated and accepted. But the teacher should explain that it is not commonly spoken by native speakers of English. The teacher should continue explaining that educated native speakers of English will understand it and students should therefore not feel uneasy about it.

Concerning that, Kirkpatrick (2000) asserts that speakers of a new variety of English will want to preserve their identity, and the reflection of their pragmatic and cultural norms in the local variety of English is an important way of doing this. He renders an example of English-translated Minang dialogue, provided by Rusdi Thaib, an ex PhD student at Curtain University, Perth, Australia who is a Minang (Antoni and Gunawan 2010).

 

One original section above in the original article was the same as that in the plagiarized article. Again, taking almost all of the original section verbatim, N changed, modified, omitted, or re-arranged any word, key word, phrase, clause, sentence, paragraph, or part only a little as she deemed necessary as follows:

Table 3 B

Plagiarized Original
Similar to Nigeria English (none)
Nigerian Indonesian
Nigerian, Indonesian—even African and Asia Indonesian—even Asian
Below is He renders
Hausa Minang
Amina Muhammad Rusdi Thaib
(this omitted) Ph.D
Madonna Curtin
Okija Perth
Nigeria Australia
Hausa Minang

It can be seen from Table 3 B that N changed mainly names of places and people to suit her context of ‘research’. She changed the tribe “Minang” into “Hausa”, the name of the researcher “Rusdi Thaib” into “Amina Muhammad”, the university “Curtain” into “Madonna”, and the city “Perth” into “Okija”. Apart from that, she retained almost all of the section, taking it verbatim. This kind of plagiarism falls into categories 1, 2, 4, and 5.

This manner or act of plagiarism consistently continued to the last part of the article. Though taking almost the whole article verbatim, N did not make herself plagiarize the category 3 way completely; but with her act of plagiarism as revealed above, she certainly caused herself to fall into category 6 to begin with, this breakable further into categories 1, 2, 4, and 5.

1.3 (Other) Interesting Points Observed

In addition to the act of plagiarism as revealed above, there are observed some interesting points that N made. Firstly, as far as plagiarizing intentionally or unintentionally is concerned, there were signs that she could have plagiarized the article intentionally. Some signs that can be rendered here are as follows: She almost took the whole article verbatim; she changed, modified, omitted, and re-arranged words, phrases, clauses, sentences, or parts to suit her context of ‘research’ when she deemed necessary. This suggests that she was fully aware of what she did. Next, it is funny that she still included the original article in the reference. That is, she stole the article bearing the same title ‘written’ by her, and she still referenced the article under the original same title by the original writer. Finally, when she was confronted by the writer about her act of plagiarizing the writer’s article, she realized and apologized accordingly, adding that she had her students collect the data and that she was not aware that her students plagiarized.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, there were signs easily seen even on the surface that N plagiarized the writer and his partner’s article. She almost took the article completely verbatim; she just changed, modified, omitted, or re-arranged any word, key word, phrase, clause, sentence, paragraph, or part as she deemed necessary. As such, her act of plagiarism did not fit category 3. Rather, She committed the act of plagiarism falling into category 6, this further breakable into categories 1, 2, 4, and 5.

One implication of the research is that students should be trained to avoid committing plagiarism at any cost. The following steps are forwarded to the writing teacher or instructor to teach students to produce plagiarism-free writing pieces:

  1. Teach students to begin with their own topic or idea when starting writing; teach them not to go directly online.
  2. Teach them to elaborate on their topic or idea following this writing-as-a-process principle; show them that writing takes time.
  3. Teach them how to support their idea, topic, or opinion using somebody else’s statement(s); teach them how to quote and cite the source.
  4. Teach them how to paraphrase, summarize, and the likes somebody else’s opinion and still acknowledge the source.
  5. Teach them to write all the references properly, probably following the most commonly used APA style.

REFERENCES

Alwasilah, A. C. 2002. Pokoknya Kualitatif: Dasar-Dasar Merancang dan Melakukan Penelitian Kualitatif. Jakarta: PT. Dunia Pustaka Jaya.

Antoni, F. and Gunawan, M. H. 2010. Local pragmatic norms in students’ English: an identity to unleash. Transformations in English Language Education: Proceedings of the 19th MELTA International Conference 2010, 972-979.

Anney, V. N. and Mosha, M. A. 2015. Student’s plagiarisms in higher learning institutions in the era of improved internet access. Journal of Education and Practice, 6 (13), 203-216.

Bowen, G. A. 2009. Document analysis as a qualitative research method. Qualitative Research Journal, 9 (2), 27-40. DOI: 10.3316/QRJ0902027.

Fish, R. and Hura, G. 2013. Students’ perceptions of plagiarism. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 13 (5), 33-45.

Lincoln, Y. S. and Guba, E. G. 1985. Naturalistic Inquiry. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

N, C. 2015. Local pragmatic norms in students’ English: an identity to unleash. International Journal of Strategic Research in Education, Technology and Humanities, 2 (2), 207-212.

N, C. 2017. Local pragmatic norms in students’ English: an identity to unleash. African Research Review, 11 (4), 186-191.

plagiarism.org. 2012. Types of plagiarism. Retrievable from http://www.plagiarism.org/plagiarism-101/types-of-plagiarism.

Turnitin. 2012. The plagiarism spectrum: instructor insights into the 10 types of plagiarism. Retrievable from File:///C:\Users\IBM\Downloads\Turnitin_WhitePaper_Plagiarism_Spectrum.pdf.

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