Cultural Issues and Plagiarism

Ranked Choices

#1 – Sharon Myers (March 1998). “Questioning Authority(ity): ESL/EFL, Science, and Teaching about Plagiarism.” TESL-EJ 3(2)

This article provides a wide-ranging account of the ramifications for scholars and teachers of the dominance of western notions of academic integrity, particularly plagiarism, in an increasingly global and networked scholarly world. Myers considers both experienced publishing researchers in the sciences and inexperienced ESL students, with a particular focus on Chinese scholars and students trying to adhere to academic conventions contrary to their own cultural sense of intellectual propriety.

#2 – Christine Keenan and Peter Jemmeson (2006). “International Students and Plagiarism: A Review of the Literature.” UK: Bournemouth University Centre for Academic Practice.

As the title suggests, a review of the current scholarly literature on unintentional plagiarism by international students. Factors reviewed include a lack of knowledge of western academic expectations; the degree to which a commitment to those expectations are shared when there is a tension between western and non-western views of ownership, respect, and copyright; and the impact of relative competency on matters such as quotation, paraphrase, and citation. Of particular value is the examination of the reasons for the rise of plagiarism among international students.

More Choices

Rebecca Moore Howard (March 2007). Plagiarism Bibliography: Intercultural Issues

Rebecca Moore Howard, a noted scholar of plagiarism, has put together a collection of bibliographies on key issues in plagiarism scholarship. For a complete list of her plagiarism bibliographies, see the Plagiarism Scholarship post.

International Student and Scholar Services Offices (2006). Tips for Faculty Working with International Students in the Classroom. University of Denver

Handout prepared by the University of Denver to aid faculty in understanding how to work with international students, especially in terms of being aware of the cultural issues involved in helping international students conform to Western notions of scholarly attribution.

NAFSA: Association of International Educators (authored b y Michael Smithee, Sidney L. Greenblatt, and Alisa Eland) (2004). U.S. Culture Series: U.S. Classroom Culture

A State Department-sponsored brochure designed to orient international students to the student-centered classroom, administrative structure, and faculty roles within American academia. Not restricted to academic integrity issues, but these are thrown into useful relief by the brochure’s comparison of different cultures’ notions about the level of participation, independence, and deference expected of students.

William P. Alford. To Steal a Book Is an Elegant Offense: Intellectual Property Law in Chinese Civilization. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995.

Attempts a cultural, historical, and economic of why intellectual property theory and practice emerged unevenly across the globe, with particular reference to China.

ESL Writers Discuss Plagiarism: The Social Construction of Ideologies. By: Evans, Faun Bernbach; Youmans, Madeleine. Journal of Education, 2000, Vol. 182 Issue 3, p49-65.

This article uses qualitative interview methodology to explore gaps in the understanding of plagiarism between instructors and ESL writers. Though writing is a socially situated endeavor, instructors are sometimes biased against non-native writers due to the perception that they are more likely to plagiarize. Students may misunderstand the American convention of plagiarism or some may even understand the concept yet choose to plagiarize anyway.

But I Changed Three Words! By: Thompson, Leonora C.; Williams, Portia G.. Clearing House, Sep/Oct95, Vol. 69 Issue 1, p27-29.

This article uncovers some of the confusion that ESL students face even after having been taught the rules of textual borrowing in the American academy. The writers contend that learning “not to cheat” is sometimes a cultural barrier, and they provide several specific solutions that move instruction beyond textbook exercises and lists of rules and citation styles.

Borrowing Others’ Words: Text, Ownership, Memory, and Plagiarism By: Alastair Pennycook TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 30, No. 2. (Summer, 1996), pp. 201-230.

Pennycock argues that plagiarism needs to be understood within the context of text, ownership, memory, and learning. He chronicles the historical development of the Western treatment of text, thus uncovering a paradox: crediting “original” authorship, yet managing a “fixed canon” of knowledge within a field. He uses the example of Chinese cultural practices as an alternate context for understanding plagiarism and applies these practices to issues that surround textual borrowing in the classroom.

Plagiarism in ESOL students: is cultural conditioning truly the major culprit? By: Dilin Liu. ELT Journal. Oxford: Jul 2005. Vol. 59, Iss. 3; p. 234-241.

The author provides a counter-point to articles that claim notions of plagiarism are culturally-bound. He claims that the argument that Chinese students are more likely to plagiarize due to their cultural background is based on faulty information and reasoning.

“Completely Different Worlds”: EAP and the Writing Experiences of ESL Students in University Courses By: Ilona Leki; Joan Carson TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 31, No. 1. (Spring, 1997), pp. 39-69.

This article, based on interview data with ESL students, indicates that non-native speakers’ management of writing tasks depends on the source of information being used. Tasks assigned in ESL writing classes do not always match what is assigned when students leave the ESL classroom, especially in terms of interaction with texts and source material. The authors conclude by saying that learning text-responsible writing is critical to students’ growth and success in the American university.

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