Why do students plagiarize? Is that they are lazy, don’t understand the assignment, don’t understand proper citation format, are overwhelmed with balancing school work and life, or a myriad of other reasons?

At TCU, we promote TurnItIn as a teaching tool, something that helps students and faculty discover and correct citation errors. We hope this starts a conversation about academic integrity, paraphrasing, and citation conventions.

I find it interesting that the issue of plagiarism in general and the use of TurnItIn in particular seems to be a ripe field for scholarly research. It’s as if some individuals not fully doing their work provides all this fodder for the work of others.

In a pretty robust recent study, a researcher in New Zealand examined academic integrity in a business class of 569 students. He finds that “five student variables had no significant influence on whether or not students plagiarized: gender, nationality, study mode (on-site or distance), age, and year of enrollment.” So now we know, at least in this data set, what isn’t associated with plagiarism!

After massive education about plagiarism and plagiarism detection tools, the incidence of plagiarism declined from the first paper to the second – but not as much as the professor/researcher had hoped. It seems we are still left with the “why” question, after all.


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