Challenging plagiarism and developing academic skills through an interactive learning innovation
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Before the ‘electronic age’ students necessarily spent substantial time in the library where they routinely sought the support of academic librarians to source material for assignments. They would have thus been directed to appropriately rigorous academic material, and learned to deal with it. With this process, the student learnt at least some modicum of discrimination between academic and grey literature, and to take relevant notes to later use as the basis of writing their assignment. Increasingly, however, information on effectively any topic can be obtained as ‘grabs’ from a favourite web browser or other electronic media without accessing the support of trained staff or accessing the peer-reviewed literature. Partly because of the ease of accessing an overwhelmingly wide range of information on effectively any topic, much of it repetitive, I suggest that students typically ‘grab’ the first information they find relevant and, often, rather than taking notes, sections are downloaded into the very file that the assignment is written in. In addition to issues of plagiarism that is often the result of this approach of ‘note taking’, it also leads to a diminished ability to seek out and learn to deal with the academic literature because it is ‘… too hard to understand all that complicated stuff and Wikipedia has all the same information in a form I understand … ‘. With such comments coming even from the highest performing students, there are clearly issues.