Stressed out students cut corners

Amy Poppinga

Amy Poppinga

With finals week approaching, many students feel more stressed than usual as they work on research papers, final essays and compositions. Sometimes, added stress can lead students to do things they might not have otherwise, like plagiarizing the work of others.

Michael Keller, an English professor who teaches composition classes and coordinates the English 101 classes, said plagiarism is “the use of other people’s ideas or language without proper attribution.”

This can include using ideas or passages from a text without citing the source or using language from the original passages without placing the text in quotation marks. Sometimes, students plagiarize without even knowing it, such as when they forget to cite a source.

“A lot of times it’s accidental because students cut corners and do things faster than they should,” said Lyle Olson, a journalism professor.

Most cases of plagiarism that Olson sees are accidental. With several rules regarding plagiarism – including a rule that common knowledge does not need to be cited – he said students and even professionals can get confused.

“It’s pretty easy, even professional writers have gotten caught when they thought they were being careful,” Olson said.

Punishment for plagiarism is usually left up to the professor, said Eric Hanson, Students’ Association vice president and a member of the Academic Senate. If students disagree with their professors’ decisions, they can appeal to the department head. If those students still are not satisfied with the result, they can bring their case to the Academic Appeals Committee of the Academic Senate. The provost and university president are the final step for appeals about plagiarism or academic integrity cases.

In English 101, punishment for plagiarism follows guidelines but also factors in the particulars specific to the case. If the plagiarism is accidental early on in the semester, Keller said the instructors are more lenient. If the plagiarism is intentional, the student could fail the course.

“If students willfully transgress the university’s ethical code, it’s appropriate for them to receive some sort of punishment,” he said.

The penalties for plagiarism are serious because professors think the action is a serious violation of ethical standards.

“It’s dishonest; you’re using someone else’s intellectual efforts and making them come across as your own,” Olson said. “If it’s deliberate, it’s more serious than if it’s accidental, but it’s still plagiarism either way.”

To prevent plagiarism, Keller recommends that students pay attention in their composition classes. One purpose of these classes is to teach proper citation, so students should pay attention, ask questions and do their homework. Composition students can also use the writing center.

Olson recommends that students use a signal phrase – such as according to – to indicate where source material starts and use a citation where it ends. Students should also cite sources if they have doubt, and they should slow down.

“It’s takes a lot of attention to detail, there’s no way around it.”

Even if students do get stressed, Keller said plagiarism is not the answer. Students should talk to their instructors; they can help provide direction for the paper or even give an extension.

“There are many ways students can alleviate their anxieties about writing an essay: start early, follow instructions, seek assistance,” he said. “Cheating is the one thing they should not do.”

Hanson agreed. “Think about what you’re doing, it might seem easy and convenient at the time ? but the consequences are laid out, and they are severe, usually.”

#1.882107:721453248.jpg:Plagiarism.jpg::Patricia Solis