Cultural perspectives on Plagiarism

I recently viewed an interesting page on the website of the Centre for Academic Development – Student Learning, at the University of Aukland, in New Zealand:  It’s a page with video clips of students from different countries talking about how they view plagiarism. Because I’m not a member of any of their cultures, I’m curious to know if you find these video explanations accurate and/or helpful. And would you suggest to your student writers that they watch these videos? Why?

Really curious to read your responses.


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About Mickey

I'm Muriel (or "Mickey") Harris, editor of the WRITING LAB NEWSLETTER, retired Professor of English and Writing Lab Director, Purdue University (in the U.S.) and co-author of two college-level texts on writing: PRENTICE HALL REFERENCE GUIDE and WRITER'S FAQS. Having spent over three decades in a writing center, I'm convinced that they are superb learning environments...and also a great deal of fun. My husband and I are always ready to talk (endlessly) about our children and their spouses and our grandchildren, and I'm happy to meet people on Facebook

3 thoughts on “Cultural perspectives on Plagiarism

  1. Very interesting. I can’t imagine the idea of referencing one’s boat or flowerbed (for example) catching on here in the UK, but a fascinating insight into a different way of thinking. Thanks!

  2. Mickey,

    This website is a great resource for both instructors and students alike. For instructors, it can raise our awareness of the traditions of referencing in other cultures and help us understand our students’ educational backgrounds. For students, they may connect with one or more of the interviewees, and hopefully will also gain some insight into the practice and importance of citing.

    As an EAP instructor in the United States, many of my students have difficulty understanding citation, referencing, plagiarism, attribution, etc. I have been working on some resources that take a critical approach to teaching these concepts. This video will be added to those resources. Thank you for sharing it.


  3. Mickey,
    I am a writing coach at a local junior college with a student body of mostly non-native speakers and remedial students. What I continue to see over and over again is that the emphasis both in the syllabi and in the classroom is unnecessarily over-the-top when it comes to the “evils of plagiarism.” Of course overt plagiarism is a serious offense and punishable by expulsion, but many international students do not fully understand the meaning of the word and, as a result, become afraid. Fear of writing is one of the first obstacles I have to help my students overcome, otherwise it is a struggle to get them to put words down on paper. Writing is imitation, any professional writer will tell you there is nothing written that hasn’t been written before. Imitation is also the way we learn. We see a poetic phrase, or a memorable metaphor and we try to use something similar in our own work. But imitation (or paraphrasing) is not plagiarism, and teachers need to make that distinction clear to their students, not write “plagiarism” with a question mark on a student’s paper when they see a well-written sentence that is not framed by quotation marks. Honestly, what percentage of essays graded by English comp teachers worldwide contain plagiarism? I would guess less than three percent.

    Writing in English is one of many ways we express ourselves. Writing is a joy not a punishment. Students should be encouraged to feel free to take risks, be creative, turn an argument on its head and then put it back on its feet again; be so stressed by the thought that they might go to “plagiarism prison” that, only with great effort, and trembling hands, can they put an essay together. Please, do our young writers a favor and put plagiarism back in the dusty old drawer it’s been in for centuries. If you insist on scaring your students, tell them the story of the escaped mental patient with the hook instead of a hand. I believe he can still be found looking for innocent young lovers parked on dark, lonely country roads.

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