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Opinion: Cheating Stops When Schools Support Their Students

Schools need to be transparent about plagiarism that happens on campus

Illustration by Cloe Logan
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By Myra Dionne

Post-secondary schools in Canada have independent policies as to what constitutes plagiarism, yet there is little being done by the institutions to target the problem.

If academic integrity is valuable, post-secondary institutions in Canada have a responsibility to be transparent about the number of plagiarism cases that take place each year so they can see where the problems exist and how to target them.

The last study on the number of plagiarism cases in Canada was published in 2006 by the Canadian Journal of Higher Education. This found that more than 50 per cent of students in higher education engaged in some form of cheating.

Academic institutions cannot expect students to end the behaviour simply because of consequence. They need to provide staff and students with resources that go beyond a library workshop and engage conversation. Academic integrity is taught and cannot be expected if students lack an understanding or awareness of its importance.

Sarah Eaton, associate professor for Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary, published a report in January 2017 on policy definitions of plagiarism across the country.

“There is a need for a coordinated effort among Canadian institutions to agree upon how they wish to define and understand plagiarism, as well as other forms of academic misconduct, so as to better facilitate open conversations about academic integrity,” the report said.

The fact that space for this conversation doesn’t currently exist is disappointing. The problem is not that students are cheating but rather, they are being cheated by the institutions they get into debt for.

Services that offer ghostwriters are preying on vulnerabilities that exist in the system — stress, inexperience and heavy workloads. Post-secondary institutions need to better support their staff and students by being open about the plagiarism that’s taking place and targeting weaknesses in the system that lead to this type of behaviour.

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