Profs prepare for plagiarism

By on April 10, 2007

As spring arrives and the semester comes to a close, professors, who are bogged down grading papers, keep a watchful eye out for plagiarism.

Many professors use the literature in their field as a tool in detecting plagiarism.

“I go right to the sources,” said Mary Ann Cordeau, as she points to a collection of nursing text spread across a shelf in her office. Cordeau, an assistant professor of nursing, said she is familiar with all the literature in her field. Her familiarity with the literature allows her to identify if a student misuses information.

Chad Nehrt, a professor of international business, also uses the literature in his field to uncover plagiarism.

“We are aware of what’s out their in our field and when we see a writing style in a student’s paper that matches the writing in our field, it is a clue to me,” Nehrt said.

If the writing style changes in a paper, it is an indicator of plagiarism, Nehrt said.

Nehrt, who has detected plagiarism periodically in his career at Quinnipiac, recognizes it in two forms. He said the first type occurs when the student is not aware that he or she is paraphrasing or summarizing. The second type occurs when the student intentionally uses someone else’s work.

Nehrt directs his students to the Perdue University Web site to prevent plagiarism. The site contains information on how to avoid it. In Nehrt’s courses, the penalties for plagiarism vary by assignment. Students generally receive a zero, Nehrt said.

Students who are accused of intentional plagiarism are sent to the Academic Integrity Board. If the board finds the student guilty, the student is subject to sanctions. The student can appeal a guilty charge.

“Early in my teaching career I received more plagiarized student work than I believe I receive now,” said Renee Tursi, the Assistant Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. Tursi has not found plagiarism to be much of a problem in her three years at Quinnipiac. While she does recognize it as a university concern, she said her assignments are designed to lend themselves less to plagiarism.

“This has been a good experience because I feel my assignments today might engage students more passionately and directly with what they’re reading in my classes,” Tursi said.

Cordeau, who instructs the theoretical basis for nursing course, said she wants her students to examine and critically think about the literature.

“It’s hard for me to imagine with the good background of liberal arts that the students would plagiarize,” she said.

Zinacay Quinones, a junior enrolled in the entry-level master’s physicians’ assistant program, said most students are uninformed about plagiarism. “I don’t feel like enough students on this campus know how to do proper citations. That’s something I get worried about; it was not stressed in my English class freshman year,” Quinones said.

She finds citations complicated since they are different for each resource. “There aren’t any set rules and it’s definitely overwhelming,” Quinones said.

She also said it’s difficult to paraphrase Web resources when writing a paper. The information on the Web resources is too clear-cut, she said. Cordeau advises her students to visit the library and the learning center for assistance. The learning center holds seminars on plagiarism throughout the year.

“Students want to download, they don’t want to go to the library,” Cordeau said.


About Kerry Ellington