We, academic librarians, we teach our students how to search for information for their assignments, projects and dissertations regularly. In the course of working with lecturers, some lecturers have asked us to talk briefly on plagiarism and the various citation styles they could use. The lecturers’ main concern is to make their students aware of plagiarism.
Ask any student why they would copy and paste without citing and most of them will say, “Fast, mah. No time.” Whether or not they plagiarise is not the issue. They just want to get their assignments done. There is way too much to do and oh, so very little time.
So what if students know plagiarism is a no-no?
Is it about being penalized versus taking the risk? Caught between the devil and deep blue sea, it is very likely, they may just go with the flow.
The issue is simply coping (not copying, duhh…). Coping with doing what is right and with the little time they have.
If you ask them to cite everything they copy and paste to make things kosher, well, of course, they will cite everything. I mean, everything. So this is not plagiarism, right? I cite, what. All also, I cite.
Students need to learn to take the information, anaylse it and write about it. Not regurgitate. Write. Without plagiarizing. Prof Mark Featherstone hit the nail when he said students were “unaware of how to present the words and ideas of others in a way that gave credit where credit was due” (ST Forum, June 15 , 2010).
That is just “the presenting of ideas” bit.
We and our students deal with vast amounts of information all the time. When students do a search in an academic database and find some really cool articles, some students would start writing straightaway. Some will stumble on articles that they could use for other assignments. After a while they are going to wonder which piece of information belongs to which article, ah? And where is that article in my many folders of articles?
We teach EndNote. It is a bibliographic management software. What it does is it helps you download the citations in your information searches so that you can retrieve them to insert the footnotes and create your reference lists when you write. Our EndNote hands-on sessions are over-subscribed all the time. We also have EndNote sessions in lecture theatres. And the page views of our EndNote online guides are high. Not to mention our web page on citation styles.
I believe our students want to get things right. They do. Despite all they say about grades, they want to learn and learn well.
And we need to provide them with an environment in which they:
1. Write without plagiarizing.
2. Manage information efficiently and effectively.
3. Cite correctly.
All in all – students need to use and communicate information responsibly and legally.