Journal of Academic Ethics

, 9:257 | Cite as

“Does Plagiarism Mean anything? LOL.” Students’ Conceptions of Writing and Citing



This study focuses on the intersection of research ethics and academic writing, i.e. the use of sources, assignment of credit to the contributors in the research, and the dissemination of research findings. The study utilized a set of semi-structured and open-ended questions. The sample consisted of 269 undergraduate (BA) and graduate (MA) students at a U.S. university department of psychology including major and non-major students. The data showed that although an overwhelming number of the students’ examples related to ethical issues in citation dealt with plagiarism, a broad range of examples of other types of issues were also provided. Understandably, students tended to view the questions about both the assignment of credit to those involved in conducting the research and the dissemination of research findings from the research participant’s perspective, which is more familiar to them than the researcher perspective. In order to help the students to expand their notions beyond the immediate own experience to a broader understanding for the ethical principles that ought to guide a researcher in his or her work, it is desirable that students be provided with opportunities to participate in authentic research projects. With a deeper understanding of the students’ conceptions of ethics in research and academic writing, we can become more attuned to the common limitations and misconceptions that students harbor, and thus better equipped to support students in their learning process.


Research ethics Academic writing Citation Assignment of credit Dissemination University students 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Research and Development of Higher Education, Institute of Behavioural Sciences, Faculty of Behavioural SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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