No, we don’t!

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We don’t teach shoplifting, and how to avoid it, do we?

We don’t teach swearing, and how to avoid it, do we?

We don’t teach food poisoning, and how to avoid it, do we?

We don’t teach dropping the baton, and how to avoid it, do we?

Why then do we (say that we) teach plagiarism, and how to avoid it?

We are not teaching students how to plagiarise, are we? What we are doing is teaching acceptable use of other people’s words and work. It’s the same thing, but flipped. The change of wording changes the mindset – and more.

We should be getting students citing and referencing, we should expect and require honest attribution in all their work. This requires that teachers as well as students know the expectations, and that there is plenty of opportunity to practise.  It requires understanding of the WHYs – why we cite and when to cite. How knowledge is built. How arguments are strengthened. How readers can follow up the writer’s sources.

Plagiarism avoidance tends to concentrate on different HOWs:  how to cite, and it leads to rote-learning or to auto-citation-generation. It leads to the notion that “plagiarism avoidance” is all about getting work passed by Turnitin.

That in turn leads to non-understanding, to short-cuts, to mistakes, to unintentional plagiarism. And that, WE DO NOT WANT!

(This is an afterthought to my previous post, inspired by a colleague who has written to say “I especially like the [first] book mentioned as it offers some creative and student friendly methods of teaching plagiarism and how to avoid it.”)

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