A reformed approach to plagiarism accountability

DKS Editors

As students read over their course syllabi during the first week of classes, they may come upon the university’s plagiarism policy, printed at the end of almost every class syllabus. Sometimes professors briefly discuss the policy in class, sometimes they tell the students to read it and sometimes they mention nothing at all.

The official policy, posted on the university’s Web site, is long in its entirety, so most professors use an abbreviated version to print in the syllabus. But let’s be honest: With the amount of paperwork students are given during that first week, most students don’t even take the time to read what they’re given.

But the Student Advisory Council is trying to change that.

They’re in the process of creating a new statement that is more concise — one that students will be required to sign, to create more accountability on the student’s part.

The new statement, posted on KentWired.com, is certainly more digestible to students, clearly outlining the consequences of plagiarizing. Yet while signing this contract, so to speak, might bring a small sense of guilt to students thinking of plagiarizing; overall, students who are going to plagiarize or cheat are still going to do it.

Yet parts of the Student Advisory Council’s efforts make more sense.

They’re hoping that as soon as this fall, instructors will pass out pamphlets in freshman orientation classes. These pamphlets will describe what plagiarism is, according to university policy, and they’ll give examples of what constitutes plagiarism, in addition to examples of proper citation.

Many students probably see plagiarism in different ways. Most were taught how to write a research paper in high school, and it’s understandable that different schools taught different ways. Different students have different interpretations about what plagiarism really is.

It’s obvious that copying direct sentences from research materials is plagiarism, but there are other areas that are cloudier.

For example, as time passes into the early morning, just hours before a 15-page paper is due, a student might decide to paraphrase one Web site for the last seven pages of that paper, without including any of his or her own thoughts. Is that plagiarism? If not, what’s the proper way to cite something like that?

It’s unclear, and if these pamphlets address issues, it would clear up that uncertainty.

And though it might be a boring class period to students who are familiar with the process, it wouldn’t hurt for orientation instructors to spend a class briefing students on Kent State’s policy. The advisory council asked for student input on this issue, and based on the suggested reforms, it seems that students aren’t clear what plagiarism is. It’s important for the university to establish its stance on such an important issue to academics, and we hope that the coming reforms will do just that.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.