When students reference plagiarised material – what can we learn (and what can we do) about their understanding of attribution?

Kate Chanock


Although some students probably intend to plagiarise, others do it unintentionally; yet, as McGowan observes,"unwitting plagiarism" has been "largely neglected in the literature" (2005). In this article, I discuss some practices of attribution that students bring from school to university, and focus on one kind of 'unwitting plagiarism' that puzzles lecturers and student learning advisers alike – that is, when students provide a reference for 'clearly' plagiarised material. Drawing on Bakhtin, I suggest reasons why this practice makes sense to the students who do it. Then, drawing on Rose (1996) and East (2006), I look at the kind of teaching that would be necessary to mediate the gap between students' and lecturers' understandings of the purposes of attribution in scholarly writing.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21913/IJEI.v4i1.191