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Conceptions of Plagiarism and Problems in Academic Writing in a Changing Landscape of External Regulation

Abstract

The aim of this study was to investigate the consequences of the use of text-matching software on teachers’ and students’ conceptions of plagiarism and problems in academic writing. An electronic questionnaire included scale items, structured questions, and open-ended questions. The respondents were 85 teachers and 506 students in a large Finnish university. Methods of analysis included exploratory factor analysis, t-test, and inductive content analysis. Both teachers and students reported increased awareness of plagiarism and improvements in writing habits, as well as concerns and limitations related to the system. The results suggest that teachers are inclined to think of plagiarism as part of a learning process rather an issue of morality, which may have consequences for how they understand the role of text matching. The introduction of text-matching software has supported teachers’ work, but at the same time teachers emphasized their own responsibility in detecting problems in student writing. The survey provides a limited sample of “Case Finland,” where implementation of text-matching software nationwide has been remarkably rapid; it offers a glimpse into one institution’s implementation of a newly introduced policy for mandatory plagiarism detection.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. This work was supported by the Academy of Finland [grant number 252813] to the first author.

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Correspondence to Erika Löfström.

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Löfström, E., Huotari, E. & Kupila, P. Conceptions of Plagiarism and Problems in Academic Writing in a Changing Landscape of External Regulation. J Acad Ethics 15, 277–292 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10805-017-9285-y

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10805-017-9285-y

Keywords

  • Academic writing
  • Conceptions of plagiarism
  • Text-matching software
  • Student plagiarism