How to Reduce Unoriginal Thinking

How to Reduce Unoriginal Thinking

Plagiarism is one of the issues that teachers face on a continuous basis. According to Cambridge English dictionary, plagiarism is defined as the process or practice of using another person’s ideas or work and pretending that it is your own. There are some basic reasons why students plagiarize. Sometimes they find useful information they need and immediately copy it into their own work without changing anything in it. Sometimes they lack appropriate knowledge in English to express their own thoughts. The role of the teacher is to raise students’ awareness of common types of plagiarism and teach how to reduce its use in their works. 

Common Types of Plagiarism

  • Complete plagiarism is the type of plagiarism when the researcher uses someone else’s work or study as his own without mentioning the real author. 
  • Source-based plagiarism is another form of severe plagiarism when the author refers to incorrect sources or sources which don’t exist. In some cases, the researcher falsifies the data/information by changing or omitting a part of it. In this way, he/she intends to give a false impression. Needless to say how grave the consequences of this type of plagiarism can be.
  • Direct plagiarism refers to those cases when the author copies another person’s work word for word without citing the sources or using quotation marks. Unlike complete plagiarism in case of direct plagiarism, some parts of the work are copied and not the whole. 
  • Self-plagiarism happens when the author reuses a part of his previous work without citing. This type of plagiarism, however, is most common among academicians.
  • Paraphrasing plagiarism is one of the most wide-spread ones since it involves the use of another person’s work with minor changes (Some sentences may be changed by using synonyms or changing their structure. However, the main idea of the text remains the same).
  • Accidental plagiarism happens because of the lack of knowledge, mistake or unintentional paraphrasing. It is mostly committed by students 
  • Activities to Reduce Plagiarism 
  • Identifying plagiarism is one of the most difficult things to teach students. In many cases, students commit plagiarism because they don’t get the idea of plagiarism. In order to raise their awareness, the teacher can distribute a simple text on any topic. Students read it and then read other versions of the same text with minor changes. Some of the versions may be plagiarized, the others no. They work in pairs or groups and try to identify which texts are plagiarized and which ones are not. Then they elicit the main characteristics of a plagiarized text. 
  • Summarizing/paraphrasing information is an essential skill which will reduce plagiarism a lot. For this purpose, the teacher can give students a piece of reading material, time them for detailed reading. Then  students close the material and retell the information they remember to their peers or group members. As a final step, they write the summary of the reading. They must bear in mind that while summarizing they need to write down the crucial information in their own words. As a wrap-up activity students check each other’s writings to detect cases of plagiarism if any occur. The teacher can provide them with a checking rubrics:
  • Has the writer paraphrased the main idea of the material?
  • Has he/she referred back to the article by using “According to…”, “In her article…… says”
  • Has he/she changed the structure and the format of the original or kept it the way it was? 
  • Has he copied the exact words without any citation? 
  • You can read more on summarizing and proper citing here. 
  • Case studies are useful examples of showing students real plagiarized scenarios. The teacher can ask the learners to study the cases and mention the type of plagiarism used there and suggest ways of how the authors could have  avoided plagiarism in those cases.

Case 1

A researcher needs to write an article but he lacks time to conduct a proper research so he looks through scientific materials with the same topic in another language and copies one of the articles. He submits the article as his own with the hope that nobody will find out out the intellectual theft. 

Case 2

A student is assigned to write a book review. However, he doesn’t have the desire to read the book and is bored with the subject. He trawls the Internet and finds different reports on that book. He copies from each of them the necessary information for him to compile a report of his own.

Case 3

A student is assigned to write a report on geography (or any other subject). He remembers that a friend of his has written a similar report some years ago. He asks for a copy from his friend and presents his friend’s report as his own.

Case 4

A student takes a lengthy passage from a book and copies it in his paper word for word. He puts a footnote by indicating where the text came from but in the text itself he doesn’t mention that he is quoting that passage. 

The tips the article suggests to reduce unoriginal thinking will be of great help for those teachers who face this issue on a daily basis. They will know how to help their students be more research-oriented learners. 

Which types of plagiarism have you dealt with as a teacher? 

Лиза Мардоян

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