Plagiarism is one of the main challenges that academic institutions are currently facing. It has affected many students as some of them are forced to repeat the course or quit the school for good depending on institutions’ rules regarding plagiarism. However, when looking at Angela L. Walker‘s article Preventing Unintentional Plagiarism: A Method for Strengthening Paraphrasing Skills, it is apparent that plagiarism occurs unintentionally at times., which takes place whenever students are trying to paraphrase different pieces of writings (Walker, 2008).
In order to determine whether plagiarism can occur unintentionally, a study has been undertaken to determine the efficiency of paraphrasing training. This study is aimed at preventing unintentional plagiarism and equips students with proper paraphrasing skills. 36 students took part in this study. They were divided into two clusters, one of which was used as a control group. Both groups were tested on their ability to paraphrase after a thorough training (Suh, 2008).
Walker (2008) asserts that the two groups were given one moderate passage and one difficult passage to paraphrase in the middle of the semester, and a lengthier passage later. It was observed that both groups yielded the same results for the moderate paragraph, but the trained group delivered better results in paraphrasing the lengthier passage compared to the control group. Since the latter group (control) was not given any kind of training, they plagiarized a lot (Walker, 2008). However, both groups established similar levels of confidence in paraphrasing skills implying that the control group plagiarized unintentionally (Anderson, 1998).
Training on paraphrasing skills is a very important tool that can be used to help a student to understand causes of plagiarism which include leaving the original statement unchanged, modification of work by changing one or two words thus making slight changes, or failing to cite. For instance, a trained group of students evaluated rephrased accounts of an original paragraph and pointed out if the versions that were developed by researchers corresponded to correct paraphrasing or plagiarism (Suh, 2008). Versions that were plagiarized included superficial and moderate changes that included replacing an original word with a synonym, adding and/or removing a few words, and overturning the structure of the sentence. Proper examination of the changed versions showed that the originals remained mostly intact with a few patches (Anderson, 1998).
A greater part of the students who took part in the study tagged the paraphrased items appropriately, but plagiarized versions were judged as correctly paraphrased by almost a half, hence, signifying that students are not aware of the extent to which they ought to change the material. In its turn, it leads to the fact that students can plagiarize unintentionally (Walker, 2008). According to the study, there was a high probability that unintentional plagiarism was connected with the misunderstanding of the definition of plagiarism in addition to readability (Walker, 2008). It was indicated by results that students may be hindered from using paraphrasing skills when dealing with rigorous texts due to the fact that complex materials are cognitively challenging hence, they increase the possibility of using shortcuts. They also face a similar problem as a result of the “modeling practices of their professors”. Trained students have come to comprehend that failing to cite and present ideas of other people as their own is plagiarism. This might be reduced provided that a student receives extra information. Thus, training provides students with the motivation and courage which they require in order to paraphrase the lengthier and complicated passages (Walker, 2008).
Anderson, J. (1998). Plagiarism, Copyright Violation, and Other Thefts of Intellectual Property: An Annotated Bibliography with a Lengthy Introduction. New York: McFarland.
Suh, S. (2008). Plagiarism, Textual Borrowing, Or Something Else?: An L2 Student’s Writing-from-sources Tasks. New York: ProQuest.
Walker, A. (2008). Preventing Unintentional Plagiarism: A Method for Strengthening Paraphrasing Skills. Journal of Instructional Psychology Vol. 35 No. 4, 2008, p387.