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Leslie Staggers, ESL / International Student Advising Commission Chair


The Problem

Over the past several years, plagiarism incidents have been reported on many campuses. These stories highlight that this problem plagues both our domestic and international student populations. Regardless of innocence or guilt, we cannot assume any group of students, and especially not our international students, understands the mechanics of college level writing in the United States. Advisors can help provide students with the tools they need to research, analyze, and write in manners aligned with our campus honesty codes.

Why Students Plagiarize

Plagiarism.org (2008) notes that plagiarism can be defined as any of the following:

  • turning in someone else's work as your own;
  • copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit;
  • failing to put a quotation in quotation marks;
  • giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation;
  • changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit; and
  • copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not.

As most advisors understand, not all students set out to intentionally plagiarize. Students may not fully understand references and citations or they may not realize that they have copied another’s ideas. Plagiarism comes in many forms: blatant copying, unreferenced quotations, or missing citations. As such it can become increasingly difficult for students to recognize plagiarism in their work if they are not familiar with the concept.

On the other hand, some students intentionally copy the works of others and offer a myriad of reasons why. Keenan and Jemmeson (2006) note a number of these justifications: “I couldn’t keep up with the work. The lecturer doesn’t care, why should I? Everyone expects to see me succeed. Paraphrasing would be disrespectful. I got desperate at the last moment” (p.1 ).

Cultural Influences on Plagiarism

These problems also can be compounded by an international student’s cultural influences. Few understand that plagiarism is mostly a Western concept; students from other countries may not be familiar with this idea.

Juwah, Lal and Belouci (2008 ), in a plagiarism project report, noted that Confucian based societies in Asia view individual analysis of a work as egoistic and impolite. They also state that some African and Arabian cultures teach largely through memorization. In those cultures, exact quotations are a sign of respect to teachers. Consequently, students from these countries may not be aware of our cultural idea of ownership and plagiarism and could easily plagiarize in their own works.

Tips for Advisors to Help Students Avoid Plagiarism

All students, whether intentional or not, are subject to their school’s plagiarism policies. As advisors, we can work to curtail the proliferation of plagiarism on our own campuses and help students succeed. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Educate students
    • Guide students to campus resources, such as writing labs or skills advancement courses, that can work one-on-one with students to help them comprehend plagiarism and its many forms.
    • Refer students to online plagiarism detecting sites such as turnitin.com or other free sites where students can upload their work and have it checked against a database.
    • Highlight campus policies regarding plagiarism to students during advising appointments.
  • Advocate for students
    • Advisors can advocate for students by bringing attention to plagiarism prevention on campus.
    • Students must understand both the concepts and implications of plagiarism.
  • Educate faculty
    • There are many online resources to help guide faculty in dealing with international student issues.
    • Defining the relationship between faculty and international students can help open communication so that students can ask questions about their writing.
    • Ask faculty to discuss plagiarism with their students and highlight it in their syllabi.

Plagiarism is a broad, sweeping problem within higher education. This, by no means, is a detailed resource report. However, I hope that this article will help focus advisor attention on the topic and lead to a better understanding of the cultural issues involved.

There are many great books, articles, and bibliographies highlighted on the ESL & International student advising Web site. Find out more on our Commission Web site

Leslie Staggers
Indiana University-Southeast
[email protected]


International Student and Scholar Services Offices (2006). Tips for faculty working with international students in the classroom. University of Denver. Retrieved November 13, 2008, from www.du.edu/intl/isss/tips_faculty.pdf.

Juwah, C., Lal, D., and Belouci, A. (2008). Overcoming the cultural issues associated with plagiarism for international students. Retrieved November 18, 2008, from The Plagiarism Project, The Robert Gordon University, www.rgu.ac.uk/celt/learning/page.cfm?pge=31100.

Keenan, C. and Jemmeson, P. (2006). International students and plagiarism: A review of the literature. UK: Bournemouth University Centre for Academic Practice.

Plagarism.org. (2008). What is plagiarism? Retrieved November 13, 2008, from www.plagiarism.org/article/what-is-plagiarism.

Cite this article using APA style as: Staggers, L. (2009, March). What advisors can do to help curtail plagiarism among international students. Academic Advising Today, 32(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Posted in: 2009 March 32:1


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