Why students plagiarise from the internet: The views and practices in three Norwegian upper secondary classrooms

Håvard Skaar, Hugo Hammer


In a two-part mixed methods study, internet-based plagiarism amongst Norwegian upper secondary students was measured and related to performance level and knowledge of source use. Subsequently, interviews were conducted to explore these students' views on internet access and plagiarism during essay writing. The quantitative part of the study showed that 75% of the 67 students in the study plagiarised from the online sources and that plagiarism accounted for 25% of the total amount of text. Students with a higher grade in written Norwegian plagiarised less than those with a lower grade. Further, students more familiar with the correct use of sources did not plagiarise as much as students with less awareness. In the qualitative part of the study, individual interviews with 29 of the students indicated that the students wanted to spend as little time and effort as possible on the task and a great majority of the students wanted internet access whether they judged this an obstacle to their learning or not. They also preferred to have free access to internet content regardless of its relevance to the essay, and plagiarism was chosen as a writing strategy regardless of whether or not it was acknowledged to be a moral problem. More proficient writers explained their use of the internet in a more sophisticated way than less proficient writers. With these findings in mind, the different potential consequences of internet access for proficient and less proficient writers are discussed. Finally, some suggestions for further research are put forward.

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