OU Academic Integrity Systems offers class on plagiarism
Types of reports
Admonition: a warning that doesn’t go on a student’s record or result in punishment beyond a zero on the assignment in question
Violation: a mark on the student’s record that can result in a grade and institutional penalty, such as being enrolled in a remedial class
Source: Breea Clark, assistant director of OU Academic Integrity Systems
The OU Academic Integrity Systems will continue a new class next semester for students found to be in violation of plagiarism rules accounting for nearly half of all reported academic misconduct cases.
The office started a class in spring 2010 called “Do You Understand Integrity?” to offer students facing suspension for integrity code violations another option. This semester, the office created a similar program geared specifically toward plagiarism cases.
The class had 11 students, all of whom were genuinely confused about how to write and cite a paper properly, said Breea Clark, Academic Integrity Systems assistant director.
“It’s not really an integrity issue,” Clark said. “It’s an ‘I-don’t-know-how-to-write’ issue. Sticking them in our integrity course was the only option we had, which didn’t really fit.”
In the fall 2010 and spring 2011 semesters, there were 292 reported cases of academic misconduct, with 50 percent of those cases related to plagiarism, according to records. This year, there have been 264 cases so far, 129 of which, or 49 percent, are related to plagiarism.
The office identifies four types of plagiarism: errors in citation or patchwork writing, copying and pasting sections, copying whole papers and using your own paper but for a different class, Clark said.
The class is for those who don’t understand proper citations or writing techniques, Clark said. Associate provost Gregory Heiser taught it this semester, but composition instructor Ellen Bannister will teach it next fall to create a collaboration between the composition program and the Academic Integrity Systems, Bannister said.
The program takes place in six weeks from January to March and is a one-credit hour, pass-fail class, Bannister said. It covers all aspects of writing a paper, from researching topics to organizing notes to citing sources.
“Someone I met with [Friday] said that what was really good about the class is they could use the information immediately,” she said. “They learned things and could use them right away.”
Students come from all levels in school, including transfer students and students who have come back after time off, she said.
One of the most common misconceptions people have is something called patch writing, Bannister said. Students will change a few words in a quote and call it their own but keep the original structure, which is still a form of plagiarism.
Some students are reported by professors because of Internet software like TurnItIn.com, Bannister said. This system tells professors how much of a paper is unoriginal but not necessarily if it is plagiarized.
The office worked to make TurnItIn.com even easier to use by training a representative in each college to teach others how to use it, Clark said. Professors just have to check a box on DesireToLearn to get a report.
The OU Office of the Provost paid almost $33,500 to renew the contract with the company for the 2011-2012 academic year, according to documents requested by The Daily.
Most professors will spot plagiarism from a dramatic change in voice or a section that isn’t quite on topic, suggesting it was taken from somewhere else, Bannister said.
Once a student is reported for a violation, he or she will meet with Clark, who reviews cases with Heiser and more complicated cases with the OU Integrity Council, Clark said.
If the student accepts the violation, Clark chooses a sanction for the student and offers the class if it is appropriate, she said.
“You’d be amazed – more often than not, students will say they really need help with their writing and choose to go into that class,” Clark said.
Clark said she is excited about the future of the class and the opportunities for students to learn from their mistakes rather than be punished for past misinformation.
“People should be able to approach writing a paper without fear,” Bannister said.