Copy Not, Paste Not: The Truth about Academic DishonestyWebmaster
Cheating is one of the most dreaded deeds in academia. From something that seems as harmless as copying a friend’s assignment to buying fake degrees, academic dishonesty is a common problem in many universities.
A 2012 research paper by two local academics shared the shocking finding that as many as 57% of respondents surveyed believed cheating was an acceptable culture among university students. Forty-two percent admitted to sharing assignments with friends, while almost 60% said they were reluctant to report a cheating incident.
As bad as that sounds, a quick Google search will show academic dishonesty is not unique to Malaysia. With the recent surge in online assessment practices, this problem appears to be ballooning everywhere. A 2020 survey involving 2,000 students from 108 universities revealed almost half of the respondents believed cheating is common in online courses.
How does cheating happen?
Copying-and-pasting may seem like a shortcut, but it is not as innocent as it sounds. Other acts that also constitute academic dishonesty include submitting someone else’s work as one’s own, copying and lifting someone else’s work into one’s own, translating someone else’s work without proper acknowledgement or stating the source, fabrication of data, or paying for assignment-writing services.
People may resort to cheating because they fear failure, want better grades, or feel pressured to do well. Others may think they can get away with it, or that their university is not strict with such cases.
Whatever the motivation, it’s important to note that cheating is not just a problem among learners. Academics have been known to engage in dishonest work too, such as plagiarising other people’s research, falsifying data, or submitting papers to bogus or predatory journals. Even celebrities and public figures have been caught paying for fake credentials.
Staying on the straight and narrow.
It goes without saying that we should all make a conscious effort to be honest in our work. For learners, consider these tips when you are working on your assignments, projects and theses:
- Paraphrase: Unless you are including a direct quote, which you must properly cite, you need to express ideas in your own words without copying exactly from your source.
- Cite and refer: Always cite your sources using proper referencing formats. If you’re dealing with a huge number of references, you can use citation software like EndNote to keep your list in check.
- Quote: Indicate clearly when you’re quoting text from another source, use the correct format for quotations, and include the citation in your list of references.
- Use a plagiarism checker: Before you submit your work, take this extra step to ensure you have not inadvertently introduced duplicate content. There are online options, such as the one at Grammarly.
As with all reputable education institutions, academic dishonesty is not acceptable at OUM. One of the ways the University keeps tabs on this is by enforcing a plagiarism check on Turnitin on all master’s projects as well as doctorate and PhD theses, which will only be accepted if the check yields a score of less than 30%. If a project or thesis receives a Turnitin score above 30%, it will be returned to the learner for revision.
Administrative and learning centre staff have been trained to use Turnitin; they are part of the University’s broad effort to curb the possibility of plagiarism.
At the root of the problem is a question of ethics and integrity. Ask yourself, what values do you consider important in your studies? Do those values include responsibility, truthfulness, respect, trust, and fairness? Would a degree borne out of cheating be worth it?
Take your learning seriously and give your work the respect it deserves. Don’t avoid cheating because you’re afraid of punishment. Avoid it because it’s the right thing to do.
By Tengku Amina Munira