in your discipline

In the light of yet another high profile plagiarism scandal amongst leaders and decisionmakers I wonder yet again what advice is being offered to the future leaders we educate at Oxford.

The current policy (2008) on Undergraduate Teaching notes that

‘Perhaps the most important University contribution to academic induction is its extensive guidance on developing academic good practice and the avoidance of plagiarism’

Advice for students is available,  it gives examples appropriate to essay writing but nothing relating to data or labs.

Guidance for colleagues is much harder to find at Oxford and anecdotal evidence suggests that supervisors and tutors responsible for marking coursework make their own decisions about penalties and intent with little consistency across a department. I have searched Oxford’s new support site for supervisors  ‘dealing with problems’ and I am not reassured. The reasons that students plagiarise are rarely as simple as not knowing how to reference correctly.

We are coming up for that time of year when the Proctors demit. I wonder whether they will mention plagiarism policy and guidance again. For those with an interest in plagiarism  at Oxford, the Turnitin User Group meets again on March 12th.  Given how much money the University spends on the Turnitin tools and how widely it is used , I am always surprised how little it is mentioned on UAS webpages about academic practice.

The Oxford Turnitin stats for the 12 month period from Nov11 – Nov 12 are as follows (Nov 10 – Nov 11 in parentheses):

  • Total submissions: 6854 (3863) – 77% increase on previous year
  • Submittted via WebLearn: 3384 – 49% of total (1849) – 83% increase

It’s no silver bullet but it helps.

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