Internet scepticism should be taught says academic

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A UNIVERSITY boss has said educating students to be sceptical about what they find on the internet was key to defeating plagiarism.

Norma Martin Clement warned that unless undergraduates were told how to properly research and write essays, universities and students would be left in an “arms race”.

Leeds University’s pro-dean for learning and teaching said: “Without working on prevention you are left with some students looking for more sophisticated ways of carrying out plagiarism.”

The internet is being blamed for the large increase in plagiarised work at Yorkshire universities as students can readily access other people’s writing at the push of a button.

It also equips academics with the power to check students work against any text available on-line.

Turn It In is a plagiarism detector used by universities in Yorkshire which compares new essays against more than 150 million archived student papers.

Every time a new piece of work is checked by this software it is automatically added to the database.

However academics have warned that computer software is only one weapon in the battle against plagiarism.

Mrs Martin Clement told the Yorkshire Post that stressing the importance of good academic practice was vital.

She said: “It comes down to academic judgement and there is a dividing line between poor scholarship and plagiarism.

“Student learning has changed in recent times. Nowadays many students will bring laptops into lectures but we do need them to be able to go back to basics – making sure they take good notes and are using their brains.

“Not everything they find on the internet will be of a high standard. We need to make sure they are sceptical about what they see on the internet and do not accept everything which they find on Google and Wikipedia.”

Universities across the region said that educating students about plagiarism and how to avoid it was a key part of their induction process.

Sarah-Jane Dickenson, deputy dean for learning and teaching at Hull University said this was a particular issue for some international students who have been educated in systems with different academic practices to British universities.

Becka Colley, Bradford University’s dean of students, said she hoped cases of plagiarism would decrease over time as students were taught more about how to avoid it.

She also said better links between schools and universities would help give students the skills they needed for degree level work.

“What is needed for an AS-level paper and work at degree level is completely different,” she added.

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