New guideline identifies modern types of ‘blurred cheating’

Cloning, or submitting another person’s work, word-for-word as one’s own, is still at the top of the spectrum as the most problematic and abused type of plagiarism. However increased access to technology has made plagiarism a more complex issue than ever before as students move beyond simply submitting another person’s work as their own.

Mashup — when a student copies work from multiple sources and does not provide proper citations — is just one of the types of plagiarism that blurs the lines between students’ tendency to share information freely on websites (such as Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia) and cheating, which makes it hard for educators to determine the appropriate disciplinary action.

Although it is the second most frequent type of plagiarism, educators do not believe mashup plagiarism is as problematic as cloning or copying and pasting, which is when students submit material from a single source with minimal changes to the original text.

It serves as an indicator of how students are writing papers, Chu said.

Educators understand that at the middle school, high school or undergraduate level students may have be a tendency to copy an expert’s work into their own because educators “see this is as part of the way students learn to write in a particular discipline,” Chu said.

Faculty may expect to see a certain level of copying at earlier levels of education, even as high as undergraduate education; however, the number of instances of unintentional plagiarism, such as mashup, should taper off as students progress through their academic careers, and should not occur at the graduate level.

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