Virtual book launch! Plagiarism in Higher Education: Tackling Tough Topics in Higher Education

April 13, 2021

Come and join us for the virtual book launch of Plagiarism in Higher Education: Tackling Tough Topics in Academic Integrity was recently published by ABC Clio (March, 2021).

The launch is co-hosted by the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning and Libraries and Cultural Resources at the University of Calgary. Best of all, two students are going to be moderating the discussion. Of course, I’ll be there to do a reading, answer questions and engage with participants.

This is a live event and it won’t be recorded, so come and join us in real time for an interactive discussion:

Friday, May 7, 2021

12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. Mountain time (i.e., Calgary time – Please convert to your local time zone).

The virtual launch will take place via Zoom. A link will be sent to registered participants on the day of the event.

Register here.

Hope you can join us. This event is free of charge and open to the public, so feel free to share.

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This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary or anyone else.

Follow me on Twitter.


Analysis of Plagiarism in the Draft Alberta K-6 Curriculum

April 3, 2021

Since the draft of Alberta’s new K-6 curriculum was released by Adrianna LaGrange last week it has been under scrutiny. One of the concerns is plagiarism. Teachers have been posting examples of alleged plagiarism on social media and sending them to me directly for analysis. To be honest, my inbox exploded last week and I can hardly keep up. I lost track of all the messages I received via e-mail and social media, but I estimate that at least 100 examples have been sent to me, some of which are duplicates. In this post, I offer my analysis of a few of these examples.

In the interest of full transparency, I am not, nor have I ever been, a teacher in the K-12 system. My teaching career has been in higher education. I earned a PhD in educational leadership and my research expertise is on academic misconduct including plagiarism and contract cheating. My peer-reviewed scholarly papers include this one in which I analyze definitions of plagiarism. I serve as the Editor-in-Chief of one of the most respected journals in the field, the International Journal for Educational Integrity, published by BMC Springer Nature. I also serve on a multi-country working group for educational policy focused on academic integrity, through the European Network for Academic Integrity. My latest book, released just last month, focuses specifically on plagiarism. And I am one of two Canadians to hold a seat on the 40-person global Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) Council. In other words, I am more than qualified to undertake an analysis of alleged plagiarism.

Definition of Plagiarism

As I have pointed out here and here, there are no absolute definitions of plagiarism. There is general consensus that plagiarism happens when someone uses the words or ideas of another without attribution. This can include copy-and-paste plagiarism (i.e., direct plagiarism), as well as the practice of re-arranging or swapping out words from the original text with synonyms (i.e., indirect plagiarism). Similarly, if an original text is paraphrased without attribution, that is also often considered plagiarism (i.e., also called indirect plagiarism).

Detecting and Declaring Plagiarism

There is no single way to detect plagiarism or declare definitively that it has occurred. There are text-matching software products (e.g., Turnitin) that can find exact matches between two texts quickly. Human detection can also be highly effective, particularly when the individual investigating the case(s) is qualified and experienced, as in my case. In my analysis, I have conducted a manual analysis of individual examples, unaided by any software.

Purpose of this Review

My goal with this review is (1) to determine if there is plagiarism in the Draft Alberta K-6 Curriculum from my perspective as an expert researcher on this topic; (2) to provide a base of evidence for further dialogue among Alberta citizens, including educators and policy makers; and (3) to offer recommendations and next steps.

My goal is not to critique the content of the draft curriculum. Others, such as Dr. Carla Peck, have already done an excellent job of that. In my inquiry, I focus specifically on the issue of plagiarism.

In the sections that follow, I offer my analysis of some examples from the Draft Alberta K-6 Curriculum. These examples are not exhaustive, and nor are they meant to be. My inbox has been filling up with examples teachers have sent to me over the past week. I simply do not have time to analyze all of these examples for plagiarism that have been sent to me from the draft AB Curriculum; there are too many. I have randomly selected some and analyze them in depth.

I conducted my analysis April 1 – 3, 2021. It is possible that some of the draft text may have changed during that time. It is easy to change digital text online. Some websites, such as Wikipedia, track every change that is made to text. In other cases, it can be difficult to track how digital text was changed on some websites unless captures of previous versions were taken using tools such as the Wayback Machine Internet Archive. Screen shots can help capture how a text looks on a website at a given moment in time, so I have included screen shots in my analysis, along with a date and timestamp to further validate the work.

I have verified and carefully reviewed each one. Below I offer specific and detailed analysis of individual cases.

Example #1: Draft Physical Education and Wellness Kindergarten to Grade 6 Curriculum

The first example is from the draft physical education curriculum. The specific passages in question, come from the text of the draft Grade 2 curriculum:

“Adventurous play can

  • promote independence and problem solving
  • provide direct experience of cause and effect
  • develop children’s coordination and bodily control
  • boost self confidence and emotional resilience
  • reduce stress
  • satisfy curiosity and a need for challenge” (p. 1-2)
Screenshot 01: Draft Alberta Curriculum for Physical Education, Grade Two. https://curriculum.learnalberta.ca/curriculum/en/c/pde2 . Screen shot taken April 3, 2021 at 08:05.

Screenshot 01: Draft Alberta Curriculum for Physical Education, Grade Two. https://curriculum.learnalberta.ca/curriculum/en/c/pde2 . Screen shot taken April 3, 2021 at 08:05.

Screenshot 01: Draft Alberta Curriculum for Physical Education, Grade Two. https://curriculum.learnalberta.ca/curriculum/en/c/pde2 . Screen shot taken April 3, 2021 at 08:05.

Likely source text: North Vancouver Recreation Centre

The text of the draft curriculum bears a striking resemblance to this text from the North Vancouver Recreation Centre:

“Adventurous play is sometimes called risky play. It is defined as thrilling and challenging forms of play that involve a risk of physical injury. Each time a child has a minor accident, learning and adaptation happen. The benefits of adventurous play are numerous. Challenging play:

  • Promotes independence and problem-solving
  • Provides direct experience of cause and effect (natural consequences)
  • Develops coordination and bodily control
  • Boosts self-confidence and emotional resilience
  • Promotes self-regulation
  • Reduces stress and fears
  • Satisfies natural need for challenge and thrill”
Screenshot 02: North Vancouver Recreation Centre. https://www.nvrc.ca/notices-events-blog/active-living-blog/importance-adventurous-play. Screenshot taken April 3, 2021 at 08:11

Screenshot 02: North Vancouver Recreation Centre. https://www.nvrc.ca/notices-events-blog/active-living-blog/importance-adventurous-play. Screenshot taken April 3, 2021 at 08:11

Analysis: The two texts are remarkably similar. Although some words have been changed, the substance of the content is largely the same. Also, the items in the list are in pretty much the same order in both cases.

Conclusion: This content should have been attributed to the North Vancouver Recreation Centre. Without attribution, this would be classified as plagiarism.

Example #2: Draft Social Studies Kindergarten to Grade 6 Curriculum

Educators have e-mailed me with numerous concerns about plagiarism in the draft social studies curriculum. In this example, the text in question comes from the Grade 6 draft curriculum:

“The religious affiliation of most Albertans is Christian, and the largest denominations are Roman Catholic, United, Anglican, Lutheran, and Baptist churches.”

Canada and Alberta’s latest census data on Albertan and Canadian religious diversity” (p. 33).

Screenshot 03: Draft Alberta Curriculum for Social Studies, Grade Six. https://curriculum.learnalberta.ca/curriculum/en/c/sss4 . Screen shot taken April 3, 2021 at 08:38

Screenshot 03: Draft Alberta Curriculum for Social Studies, Grade Six. https://curriculum.learnalberta.ca/curriculum/en/c/sss4 . Screen shot taken April 3, 2021 at 08:38

The text of the draft curriculum is very similar to text that appears on the Wikipedia page for the Demographics of Alberta:

“Over 60 percent of Albertans identify as Christian, while almost 32 percent of residents identify with no religion. The largest denominations are the Roman CatholicUnitedAnglicanLutheran, and Baptist Churches.”

04 - Screen Shot 2021-04-03 at 8.26.32 AM

Screenshot 04: Wikipedia page, “Demographics of Alberta”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Alberta . Screenshot taken April 3, 2021 at 08:26

Analysis: The similarities between the two texts is obvious. What was not immediately obvious was whether the Wikipedia text had been changed recently to make it look as if plagiarism had occurred after the draft had been released. I took a look at the revision history of this Wikipedia page (which is openly available to everyone on the Internet).

Screenshot 05: Revision history for Wikipedia page “Demographics of Alberta”. Screenshot taken April 3, 2021 at 08:27

Screenshot 05: Revision history for Wikipedia page “Demographics of Alberta”. Screenshot taken April 3, 2021 at 08:27

It does not appear to me as though the page was maliciously modified after the draft curriculum was released. (Note: In this blog post from 2012, I state openly that I do not consider Wikipedia to be reliable source material for academic work. This would include curriculum development.)

Conclusion: Although this is a short passage, its similarity to the Wikipedia page is close enough that attribution should be provided. In cases such as Wikipedia, attribution should include a “retrieved from” date to indicate when the source material was consulted. Without attribution, this could be classified as plagiarism.

Example #3: Draft Social Studies Kindergarten to Grade 6 Curriculum

In this example, the text in question comes from the Grade 6 draft curriculum, under the knowledge section:

“A popular theory, proposed as a way of drawing a distinction between two different societies, the United States and Canada: It suggests that there is a difference between the Canadian mosaic, where ethnic groups have maintained their distinctiveness while functioning as part of the whole, and an American melting pot, where peoples of diverse origins have allegedly fused to make a new people.” (p. 32)

Screenshot 06: Draft Alberta Curriculum for Social Studies, Grade Six. https://curriculum.learnalberta.ca/curriculum/en/c/sss4. Screenshot taken April 3 at 09:03

Screenshot 06: Draft Alberta Curriculum for Social Studies, Grade Six. https://curriculum.learnalberta.ca/curriculum/en/c/sss4. Screenshot taken April 3 at 09:03

Original text: The text above is an exact duplication of text published in a 1976 article authored by Howard Palmer, published in the International Journal.

Screenshot 07: Palmer, H. (1976). International Journal. https://search.proquest.com/docview/1290345770?pq-origsite=gscholar&fromopenview=true&imgSeq=1# Screenshot taken April 3, 2021 at 09:08

Screenshot 07: Palmer, H. (1976). International Journal. https://search.proquest.com/docview/1290345770?pq-origsite=gscholar&fromopenview=true&imgSeq=1# Screenshot taken April 3, 2021 at 09:08

Conclusion: The original author’s words have been duplicated without attribution. This is an obvious case of word-for-word plagiarism.

Discussion

I have identified several different sources in my brief analysis. This indicates that content has been lifted or borrowed from multiple original sources, not just one or two. Others have commented that additional source material might have come from CoreKnowledge and specifically, the Core Knowledge Sequence.

The approach of taking bits and pieces of others’ content and stitching it together into an allegedly new document is called patchwriting, a term used extensively by plagiarism scholars such as Rebecca Moore Howard and Diane Pecorari. Patchwriting happens when writers lack the skills or confidence to paraphrase effectively and is widely regarded as an indication that the writer needs support.

This draft curriculum is a patchwork of material pulled from different sources. Plagiarism happens when source material is not attributed. A basic tenet of academic and research integrity is to give credit where it is due. In this draft curriculum, there is little to no indication of acknowledgement of those whose ideas and words contributed to its development. It appears as though the draft of Alberta’s new K-6 curriculum is rife with plagiarism.

Critics will no doubt jump on the fact that I have analyzed only three examples in this article. Although that is true, I began this post by saying that Alberta teachers have e-mailed me dozens and dozens of passages from the new curriculum that they believe have been plagiarized from a variety of sources. It actually isn’t my job to detect plagiarism in the new curriculum; it is up to the Alberta government to do that. I have provided enough examples here to show that further investigation is warranted, as is further discussion. There is much more to analyze than I had the time to do in a few days. It was important to me to get this post published so as to inform an evidence-based dialogue.

Recommendations and Solutions

The solution for plagiarism is easy: Cite the original source material. Here are three easy steps to fix the plagiarism in the draft of Alberta’s new K-6 curriculum:

Step 1: Identify content replicated or paraphrased from other sources. This will require a line-by-line review of the entire draft curriculum.

Step 2: Document where the original source material came from. Keep detailed notes of who wrote the content, as well as when and where it was published.

Step 3: Cite and reference all the sources consulted in the development of the curriculum. (If you need a refresher on the difference between citing and referencing, I explain it in this post.)  In the References below I have provided details of the original sources I consulted to conduct my analysis for this blog post. I have used APA formatting, but any format would be fine. The key is to publicly show what source material was consulted and give credit to the original authors. Give credit where it is due. In many cases, plagiarism is entirely preventable.

The draft of Alberta’s new K-6 curriculum for English Language Arts and Literature states that:

“Ethical use of information includes

  • asking permission to use, share, or store information
  • acknowledging the ownership of information used to inform writing (citing)” (p. 42 and p. 63)

These are skills that the Alberta government wants children in Grades 4 (p. 42) and Grade 5 (p. and p. 63) to learn. Surely if we are asking children in grades 4 and 5 to demonstrate the skills of ethical use of information, we should expect the same of the adults who develop the curriculum.

Acknowledgements: I wish to acknowledge all those who sent me examples of problematic passages in the new draft curriculum via e-mail or social media. Some of you wish to remain anonymous, so I conclude with a general note of thanks to everyone who has contributed to this inquiry. I am sorry I do not have time to analyze all of your examples, but I appreciate you sending them to me.

References:

Demographics of Alberta. (n.d.). In Wikipedia.  Retrieved April 3, 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Alberta

North Vancouver Recreation Centre. (2018). Importance of Adventurous Play. https://www.nvrc.ca/notices-events-blog/active-living-blog/importance-adventurous-play

Palmer, H. (1976). Mosaic versus melting pot?: immigration and ethnicity in Canada and the United States. International Journal, 31(3), 488. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/1290345770?pq-origsite=gscholar&fromopenview=true&imgSeq=1#

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This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary or anyone else.

Follow me on Twitter.


Preface and Intro: Plagiarism in Higher Education: Tackling Tough Topics in Academic Integrity

March 30, 2021

To celebrate the release of Plagiarism in Higher Education: Tackling Tough Topics in Academic Integrity, I’m doing a series of blog posts. Each post highlights key ideas from various chapters. I’ll also share some extra trivia and tidbits, so even if you’ve read the book, you’ll get some insider info that isn’t in the book itself. I’ve done a video to accompany today’s post and it has different content than the written blog post, so be sure to check out the video, too.

In today’s post, I share a story a conversation with one of my mentors that had an influence on my writing. I also share you an overview of how the book is organized.

Dedication & Preface

Normally, I wouldn’t talk about the dedication, but in this case, it is worth mentioning. When Libraries Unlimited / ABC Clio approached me in January 2019 about writing a book, at first I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t familiar with the press, but after consulting with some library colleagues whom I trust, they assured me that in the field of library sciences, they are a very well respected and have more than 60 years of experience in academic publishing. After some back and forth with the publisher, I sent in a proposal and in March 2019, I signed the contact.

The next month Tracey Bretag visited us at the University of Calgary to keynote the inaugural Canadian Symposium on Academic Integrity. While she was here, I told her I’d just signed a book contract. Our exchange went something like this:

Tracey: “A book! That’s a big project!”

Me: “I know…”

Tracey: “What will you say that is new?! I’ll be excited to read it… but you’ve got to bring something new to the table!”

Tracey wasn’t the only one to make such a comment. Those words rang in my head at every stage of the writing process. I have learned over the years that two of my strengths as a writer are synthesizing existing information in a straightforward way and also forecasting emerging trends. In this book, I do both of these things, and I also propose a new framework for understanding plagiarism in higher education that goes beyond the traditional notions of text and ideas.

I submitted the full manuscript to the book publisher in May 2020, where it then underwent a rigorous process of editing and feedback. Tracey never got to read the book manuscript, as she was already ill when I submitted it. The academic integrity world reeled in grief when she passed in October, 2020.

I realized that I needed to acknowledge Tracey’s passing in the book itself. Thankfully, my editor at Libraries Unlimited, Jessica Gribble, was gracious and understanding. Jessica and the publishing team allowed changes to the book after it had gone into the copy editing phase of production. I was able to make some updates to the text and add a dedication. The book is dedicated to Tracey and I will remain forever grateful for her constant encouragement, and also her challenge to bring something new to the field.

Table of Contents

Here’s an overview of what’s in the book:

  • Introduction: Overview of the book
  • Chapter 1: A brief history of plagiarism
  • Chapter 2: Contextualizing and defining plagiarism in higher education
  • Chapter 3: Intentionality, textuality, and other complicating factors
  • Chapter 4: A multi-stakeholder systems approach to plagiarism: The 4M framework
  • Chapter 5: Evaluation and assessment
  • Chapter 6: Self-plagiarism
  • Chapter 7: Academic file-sharing: Sharing is caring, and other myths
  • Chapter 8: Contract cheating: Outsourced academic work
  • Chapter 9: Diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Chapter 10: Recognizing, reporting, and resolving plagiarism
  • Chapter 11: Plagiarism by professors and researchers
  • Chapter 12: Conclusion: Contemplating the future of plagiarism

The structure of the book changed somewhat as I was writing it. For example, in the proposal the title of Chapter 9 was “Tackling the taboo: Plagiarism and international students”. Even though I knew I wanted to address the complexities and bust some myths related to international students, that title never really felt comfortable. As I was writing, my university was engaged in a search for its first ever Vice-Provost of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Like so many others during the spring of 2020, I became ever more aware of the need to address bias and discrimination on our campuses and in society. So, the chapter evolved quickly. In the end, it realized it was not a chapter about international students, but about equity. Once I committed to that, the chapter went in an entirely different direction; one I think that is ultimately stronger, more relevant, and more timely.

Other topics I address it the book that I had not anticipated include COVID-19 (see Chapter 5 and Chapter 12), machine learning (see Chapter 12), and the role parents play in how well their children act with integrity in school (see Chapter 4 and Chapter 8).

In the end, although this is a book about plagiarism in higher education, I also wanted it to address academic integrity (and misconduct) more generally. The community of scholars who study academic integrity has been a small one. It has been growing in recent years, and my intention for this book is to provide a solid and interesting book for current and future students, scholars, practitioners, and others who care about academic integrity in their professional practice.

Related posts:

The unboxing: Plagiarism in Higher Education: Tackling Tough Topics in Academic Integrity – https://wp.me/pNAh3-2FZ

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Share or Tweet this: Preface and Intro: Plagiarism in Higher Education: Tackling Tough Topics in Academic Integrity – https://drsaraheaton.wordpress.com/2021/03/30/preface-and-intro-plagiarism-in-higher-education-tackling-tough-topics-in-academic-integrity/

This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary or anyone else.


Unboxing: Plagiarism in Higher Education: Tackling Tough Topics in Academic Integrity

March 26, 2021

Plagiarism in Higher Education: Tackling Tough Topics in Academic Integrity has officially been released!

Yesterday was a pretty exciting day because my author copies arrived. The books were delivered during the day, so I waited until after work to open them. I made an unboxing video so I could share the experience with you:

Here’s an overview of what’s in the book:

  • Introduction: Overview of the book
  • Chapter 1: A brief history of plagiarism
  • Chapter 2: Contextualizing and defining plagiarism in higher education
  • Chapter 3: Intentionality, textuality, and other complicating factors
  • Chapter 4: A multi-stakeholder systems approach to plagiarism: The 4M framework
  • Chapter 5: Evaluation and assessment
  • Chapter 6: Self-plagiarism
  • Chapter 7: Academic file-sharing: Sharing is caring, and other myths
  • Chapter 8: Contract cheating: Outsourced academic work
  • Chapter 9: Diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Chapter 10: Recognizing, reporting, and resolving plagiarism
  • Chapter 11: Plagiarism by professors and researchers
  • Chapter 12: Conclusion: Contemplating the future of plagiarism

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some highlights from the book through a series of blog posts, so stay tuned!

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Share or Tweet this: The unboxing: Plagiarism in Higher Education: Tackling Tough Topics in Academic Integrity – https://wp.me/pNAh3-2FZ

This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary or anyone else.


Why schools need “safe sharing sites” for students: Promoting academic integrity with ethical approaches to file-sharing

March 3, 2021

#ICAI2021 - Eaton quoteCommercial file-sharing and homework help sites have proliferated during the COVID-10 pandemic. One recent news report states that Chegg is now worth $12 Billion USD. And that’s just one company.

During the 2021 International Center for Academic Integrity conference, there were a few sessions dedicated to how to deal with companies such as Chegg, CourseHero and other commercial entities. One answer might be for schools themselves to create “safe sharing sites” for students.

The idea is similar to that of safe consumption sites for those who use drugs to do so in a monitored and safe environment. The purpose of a supervised or safe consumption site is to support harm reduction for users.

To transfer the analogy to academic file sharing, if students are going to share files anyway, it is incumbent upon schools provide them with safe and supported ways for them to do so. Safe sharing sites can promote ethical decision-making, minimize academic misconduct, and foster a sense of school community where profs, administrators, and students are working together to uphold integrity.

The onus is on educational institutions to support students’ learning. When schools invest in student learning through institutionally-supported tools and platforms, they support the student experience. Developing safe sharing sites is one viable way to address the problem of unethical file-sharing.

Putting resources into trying to combat global corporate entities whose primary purpose is to make a profit from our students is a losing battle. Putting effort into submitting requests to take down materials from corporate third party sites is like a game of whack-a-mole we can never win. As I commented in one of the conference presentations during the ICAI conference: Schools paying for a commercial file-sharing site account in order to find out what is on their website is like paying a drug dealer to find out what is in their pills. When schools pay for an account on corporate 3rd party sites, we help to finance the industry we are advocating against.

As educational institutions, we must find ways to work with our students, not against them. File-sharing is a normal online behaviour, so let’s provide students with the tools to do what they are going to do any way in safe and supported ways that help them – and us – uphold integrity on our campuses.

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This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary or anyone else.


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