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Plagiarism tops academic misconduct cases at CSU

While in the Writing Center's temporary location in Johnson Hall, Freshman Business Administration major Rachel Roderick receives advice on her paper from first-year Rhetoric and Composition Masters student, Michelle Wilk. The Writing Center is an excellent resource for students who are unsure on plagiarism rules.
While in the Writing Center’s temporary location in Johnson Hall, Freshman Business Administration major Rachel Roderick receives advice on her paper from first-year Rhetoric and Composition Masters student Michelle Wilk. (Photo credit: Sady Swanson)

During the 2012-13 school year, plagiarism was the most common type of academic misconduct at Colorado State University.

Conflict Resolution saw 131 cases of plagiarism reported last year, which made up 38 percent of the overall cases reported, according to the 2012-13 Academic Integrity Report.

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CSU defines plagiarism as “the copying of language, structure, images, ideas, or thoughts of another and representing them as one’s own without proper acknowledgement,” according to the 2012-13 Academic Integrity Report.

The report also said plagiarism occurs when sources are not appropriately referenced or cited.

Sue Doe, associate English professor and director of the undergraduate writing program, said that CSU does well in preventing students from plagiarizing unintentionally due to a lack of understanding or time management problems.

“The way that we [CSU] construct assignments here makes it unlikely and undesirable, I think, for students to even contemplate plagiarism,” Doe said.

Doe said that when students have to turn in work that shows the progress of an assignment, students are less likely to plagiarize.

“A lot of students plagiarize out of desperation,” Doe said. “They find themselves the night before a paper is due, and then they do really dumb things that get them into trouble.”

Jack Applin, an instructor in the Computer Science department, said he has experienced plagiarism when teaching students how to write computer code.

“Students think that if it’s (the computer code) supposed to do the same thing, there’s only one way to do it,” Applin said. “That’s false.”

Applin said collaboration is a bigger issue for his students, since plagiarism is more commonly associated with papers or photographs.

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The University makes an effort to spread awareness of plagiarism with events like Academic Integrity Week, which was from Oct. 6-9 this year.

The week’s purposes were to educate students in ways to avoid academic misconduct and show students that academic integrity is something the University cares about, according to Elaine Green, Academic Integrity Week director.

An emphasis was placed on communicating plagiarism to international students.

“One of the reasons we focus on getting that information to international students is, it’s bigger than just a difference between high schools,” Green said. “Some cultures have a very different understanding of what is academic writing and how to use information that came from other sources.”

CSU also provides resources like The Writing Center, which has relocated to Johnson Hall due to the Eddy Hall remodel, to help students avoid plagiarism.

“We (the Writing Center) don’t intrude by contacting anyone,” Writing Center Director Lisa Langstraat said.

The employees in the Writing Center help students understand how to use other’s ideas while still citing properly, Langstraat said.

“Students tend to loose track of what is their work and what is someone else’s work,” Langstraat said.

Plagiarism can be detected by professors using SafeAssign through RamCT, which scans everything submitted and sends a report to the professor that says how much of the assignment matches work on the internet or other work submitted through SafeAssign.

Faculty can also put individual papers through SafeAssign if they suspect that the paper was plagiarized.

Additionally, faculty can set up their courses to allow students to put their papers in SafeAssign and receive a report, which is not sent to their professor, showing the student what needs to be fixed, according to Green.

The Institution for Learning and Teaching website has other resources for students to help make expectations for avoiding plagiarism clear to students.

Collegian Reporter Sady Swanson can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter at @sadyswan.

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