Survey reveals student mindframe regarding plagiarism

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Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Bibliographies and works cited pages are a common requirement for college assignments. But a recent survey conducted by RefME, an online citation generator, found the majority of students need more information about how to properly cite sources. The most common error made by students, the survey shows, is improper formatting.

The study, which was based on the responses of more than 2,000 college students from across the nation, shows three in five students need more information about citing and 40 percent of students feel their education regarding citations and plagiarism has been inadequate.

Aleina Kreider, an English graduate student and rhetoric professor, has found this to be true in her experience. Although most students come to her with a basic knowledge, many don’t fully understand what constitutes plagiarism.

“Instructors tend to want instances of plagiarism to create a teaching moment rather than an opportunity to punish students,” Kreider said, although she has several colleagues who have been forced to respond with disciplinary action.

The survey shows 82 percent of students are aware of the consequences of plagiarism. However, there are discrepancies in what students view as plagiarism.

UT describes plagiarism in simple terms, “if you represent as your own work any material that was obtained from another source, regardless of how or where you acquired it.”

Undergraduate studies freshman Victoria Rodriguez said she is not very experienced with citations, but is also not overly concerned about accidental plagiarism.

“Sometimes I use EasyBib, but for the most part I do it on my own,” Rodriguez said. She has found that communication is the most important tool.

“I usually check with my professor before turning it in,” Rodriguez said.

Kreider said this is a good approach.

“For the most part, instructors want to help students understand how citation works and work with students to help them learn that skill,” Kreider said. “So if you're struggling with citation and you're nervous about plagiarism, always reach out to your instructor — they're here to help.”

UT’s rules and consequences for plagiarism depend on severity, and range from failing a course to expulsion, leading to a high level of anxiety among many students who fear they may slip up and be punished.

History senior Hank Howard said he still feels anxious each time he submits a works cited page.

“Even for the major papers, I always get worried,” Howard said. “Just because it is such a huge part of my grade, and it carries such a heavy penalty.”