Giving credit: Facing the consequences of improper citing in college classes

Hannah Kelley

Between Kent State’s writing professors, tutors and Office of Student Conduct, there is an agreement among faculty that many students fail to understand how to properly cite sources in their college papers — nor do they understand the consequences.

Tutors working at the Kent State Writing Commons, a place where students can go to get feedback on their writing, say improper citation and accidental plagiarism happens regularly.

“It’s definitely a common problem we see in college writing papers,” said Spencer Smith, a senior tutor and director of marketing for the Writing Commons. “Sometimes students come in − expecting us to give them feedback on grammar − with plagiarized work and they really just didn’t know.”

For students who have submitted improperly cited assignments like these, there are procedures professors are supposed to go through to determine whether the student should be penalized.

According to the Special Assistant for Office of Student Conduct, Stephanie Evans, the instructor and the Office of Student Conduct may come up with different punishments for students depending on the nature of the crime. These range from refusal to give the student credit for the assignment, having them redo the assignment or failing the class.

In some cases, students may appeal the decision and a panel may further discuss.

According to Assistant Dean of Students and the Director for Office of Student Conduct, Todd Kamenash, the number of students caught cheating on Kent State’s campus is still extremely small.

Between eight Kent State campuses and roughly 37,000 total students, there are approximately 300 reports of cheating sent to the Office of Student Conduct per year. This has remained stagnant for nearly a decade.

These numbers don’t all reflect plagiarism or improper citation. However, Kamenash explained that each report is investigated and of those 300, approximately a fourth of those were deemed fit for “Plagiarism School,” meaning they were plagiarism-related.

Plagiarism School is a one-on-one session in which the student learns proper citation procedures and is educated on policy and procedures of cheating, and is encouraged to sign an “honor pledge” stating that they understand the crime, according to the Kent State website.

Kamenash said most cheating probably goes undetected and unreported.

“They’re supposed to report it to us,” Kamenash said. “We have a lot of great professors who really know their students but of course not everything is going to be noticed. And some professors prefer to handle their classroom their own way.”

Evans lists copying off another student’s paper during tests, bringing cheat-sheets, writing answers on body-parts and sharing answers with classmates  as other ways of cheating. Of these, she says “copy and paste” cheating is the most common.

“Everyone makes mistakes,” Kamenash said when asked about how many students he’s seen cheat over the years. “Kent has a lot of great students, and I don’t believe anybody is a bad person — just someone who made a mistake.”

Hannah Kelley is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].