22 SES 13 C, Student Learning, Development and Supervision
The paper shares the findings of a research project which investigates student identities during transitions into a postgraduate culture of good academic practice; something that is of particular importance given increasing numbers of international students. Gale and Parker (2014) have suggested that transition should not just be looked as encompassing induction activities, but as how students go through processes of development and becoming. One crucial aspect of how students construct new identities for themselves in postgraduate contexts is their negotiation of new ideas and beliefs about the use of evidence and plagiarism, especially for students who are undertaking postgraduate study in a different country from their undergraduate qualification.
The concept of plagiarism itself is complex and context-dependent (see, for example, (Haitch, 2016; Hayes & Introna, 2005; Pennycook, 1996; Sivell, 2015). Students transitioning to masters programmes are often crossing subject, institution or geographical boundaries (especially with the internationalisation of Higher Education) and, therefore, often need to understand new definitions of good academic practice. This can feel both more urgent and more high-stake with the prevalent use of text-matching software such as Turnitin, which can create a Foucauldian atmosphere of surveillance and the abjection of non-compliant identities, despite the possibilities for its use as a learning tool (Gannon‐Leary, Trayhurn, & Home, 2009) and the problems of interpreting scores (Carr, 2005). As Valentine (2006) has argued, negotiating the meanings of concepts such as plagiarism and good academic practice is as much about understanding social positioning, relationships and identities as following rules; internationalisation means that interactions must be made more explicit.
The project follows previous work on the connections between student authorial identity and good academic practice in the use of sources (Abasi, Akbari, & Graves, 2006; Pittam et al, 2009; Elander, Pittam, Lusher, Fox, & Payne, 2010) to analyse the processes by which students adopt new identities to participate more fully in the practices of a specific academic community. A post-structuralist approach to identity is adopted, following on from work by theorists such as Butler (1999) on the performativity of identity, thus seeing students as having a range of identities that might be performed in particular contexts or situations. An examination of the student perspective also enables students to articulate the adaptations needed to support their transitions to postgraduate academic culture.
The paper explores the findings of interviews with 38 postgraduate students about their understandings of plagiarism and good academic practice, alongside the negotiations of their own identities and those of others within academic writing, and also focus groups with 15 postgraduate students which provided further discussion of these issues. Recommendations for interventions that can be used to enhance transition so that students feel included in a postgraduate culture of good academic practice will also be provided.
The findings are not only beneficial for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) who wish to enhance postgraduate transition and student inclusion, but also for HEIs where there are difficulties in enabling students to navigate the requirements of good academic practice and what this means in their particular context. In both instances, a focus on these issues as pertaining to students’ identities can provide a fuller understanding of the student perspective and their needs for support and development, as well as ways in which the HEI itself or its practices might alter in response to enable the negotiation of new identities. Although this particular project has focused on the UK context, wider issues about identity formation and transition will provide a productive lens to look at good academic practice in HEIs in other countries, particularly as it examines the experience of students from fourteen different countries.
The research project was carried out with students at Glasgow Caledonian University, a post-92 UK university, with a main campus in Glasgow and an additional one in London which caters almost entirely for postgraduate students, the vast majority of which are not from the UK. Participants were on a range of postgraduate courses (chiefly MSc), which were mainly business or health related. Data was collected in two stages. The initial stage involved semi-structured interviews with 38 students (24 female, 14 male; 30 studying at the London campus, 8 studying in Glasgow). Interviews took place at the start of the students’ postgraduate study. Ethical approval was granted via the GCU ethics committee representative, and consent was obtained from students to use their data for the research project. The interviews lasted for about 30 minutes each, and students were asked questions about how they searched for and judged sources, the use of their own ideas and opinions in academic writing, their paraphrasing techniques, and plagiarism (their definition, their knowledge, their opinions about why students plagiarise). The second stage involved 45 min focus groups or interviews (choice of focus group or interview depended on participant availability; most focus groups had three students). This stage involved 15 students (9 female, 6 male; 9 London, 6 Glasgow; 11 countries; 9 from first stage), and took place towards the end of the students’ first trimester. Students were questioned about authorship and identity. They also took part in two activities: drawing a pictorial representation of their relationship to sources, and looking at examples of writing using two given sources, and identifying good and bad academic practice in the use of sources, and plagiarism. Participants were from the following 14 countries: • Belgium • Brazil • China • Cyprus • France • Germany • Greece • Indonesia • Iran • Japan • Serbia • Syria • United Kingdom • United States
There were clear issues which were identified by the students in using sources in their work: uncertainty about finding/ judging sources and paraphrasing, feeling that there was nothing new to say, uncertainty about the extent to which their ideas and opinions were desired or allowed, fear of accidental plagiarism and a lack of confidence to approach academic staff about good academic practice. All participants could define plagiarism, although most were unclear about the consequences. They often had a very moralistic view of plagiarism as ‘terrible’ and ‘wrong’, and a dim view of ‘lazy’ students who plagiarised. Despite the confidence with which students had asserted their definitions of plagiarism, their discussions of the writing samples revealed ways in which they did not agree with a university definition of good academic practice (e.g. satisfaction with synonym replacement, describing proper citations as ‘annoying’). There were explicit differences in students’ perception of themselves as writers. Some students were very confident about owning their ideas and writing, and saw that there was a space for them to bring different ideas together and offer conclusions and analysis, whilst others spoke about the frustration of being told that their ideas were not relevant and they only needed to include information from sources. Some students saw themselves at the top or centre of their writing, whereas others saw themselves as being equally or less important than sources. The ways in which students view the act of plagiarism as forming a distinct, negative identity were preventing an engagement with good academic practice; students were not interrogating their own practices for fear of discovering that they had become the indolent plagiarist. In addition, the uncertainties about the presence of their own identities were blocking their ability to produce academic writing which they could be confident in defining as their own.
Abasi, A. R., Akbari, N., & Graves, B. (2006). Discourse appropriation, construction of identities, and the complex issue of plagiarism: ESL students writing in graduate school. Journal of Second Language Writing, 15(2), 102–117. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jslw.2006.05.001 Butler, J. (1999). Gender trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity. New York; London: Routledge. Carr, R. (2005). Turnitin . com : Teachers ’ Perspectives of Anti- Plagiarism Software in Raising Issues of Educational Integrity. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practic E, 2(3), 10. Retrieved from http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1037&context=jutlp Elander, J., Pittam, G., Lusher, J., Fox, P., & Payne, N. (2010). Evaluation of an intervention to help students avoid unintentional plagiarism by improving their authorial identity. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(2), 157–171. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602930802687745 Gale, T., & Parker, S. (2014). Navigating change: A typology of student transition in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 39(5), 734–753. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2012.721351 Gannon‐Leary, P., Trayhurn, D., & Home, M. (2009). Good images, effective messages? Working with students and educators on academic practice understanding. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 33(4), 435–448. https://doi.org/10.1080/03098770903272511 Haitch, R. (2016). Stealing or Sharing? Cross-Cultural Issues of Plagiarism in an Open-Source Era. Teaching Theology and Religion, 19(3), 264–275. https://doi.org/10.1111/teth.12337 Hayes, N., & Introna, L. D. (2005). Cultural values, plagiarism, and fairness: When plagiarism gets in the way of learning. Ethics and Behavior, 15(3), 213–231. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327019eb1503_2 Pennycook, A. (1996). Borrowing Others’ Words: Text, Ownership, Memory, and Plagiarism. TESOL Quarterly, 30(2), 201. https://doi.org/10.2307/3588141 Pittam, G., Elander, J., Lusher, J., Fox, P., & Payne, N. (2009). Student beliefs and attitudes about authorial identity in academic writing. Studies in Higher Education, 34(2), 153–170. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075070802528270 Sivell, J. (2015). Reframing Student Plagiarism: Insight, Fairness, and Instructional Opportunities. Journal.Nystesol.Org, 2(1), 28–41. Retrieved from http://www.journal.nystesol.org/jan2015/Sivell_28-41_NYSTJ_Vol2Iss1_Jan2015.pdf Valentine, K. (2006). Plagiarism as Literacy Practice : Recognizing and Rethinking Ethical Binaries Author ( s ): Kathryn Valentine Published by : National Council of Teachers of English Stable URL : http://www.jstor.org/stable/20456924 Plagiarism as Literacy Practice : Recogn, 58(1), 89–109.
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