Plagiarism surveyed at Skidmore

Posted by Mariel Kennedy According to a study on plagiarism and cheating in American universities conducted by the Cornell University Press, "more than 75 percent of students admit to having cheated; 68 percent admit to cutting and pasting material from the Internet without citation."

Stephanie Seidmon '13, an environmental studies major and Writing Center tutor from New Jersey, is currently working on an independent study with Associate Professor of Social Work Crystal Moore to evaluate plagiarism on Skidmore's campus.

The team has produced a quick survey, which Seidmon states will hopefully show "if the Honor Code works in its pursuit to create trust between the students and the college."

The Skidmore Honor Code, which all students pledge during First-Year Orientation, defines plagiarism as "representing the work of another person as one's own: for example, the words, ideas, information, data, evidence, organizing principles, or style of presentation of someone else. Plagiarism includes paraphrasing or summarizing without acknowledgment, submission of another student's work as one's own, the purchase of prepared research or completed papers or projects, and the unacknowledged use of research sources gathered by someone else."

The Honor Code continues to define examples of minor and major offenses.

Seidmon came up with the idea for the survey after taking a class to become a Writing Center tutor last semester.

Her final paper was a research paper explaining how and why plagiarism on college campuses has increased, specifically mentioning technological advancements.

However, Seidmon states, "What the paper was missing was data for small colleges. Many studies have been done on large universities … but there have been very few conclusive studies on plagiarism at small colleges."

Around the same time Seidmon was researching plagiarism, Corey Freeman-Gallant, the associate dean of the faculty for Academic Advising, spoke on "the importance of reporting instances of academic misconduct."

"In just a few short weeks there were more academic integrity violations reported than are usually reported in a semester. With this lack of information about plagiarism at small colleges and the spike in academic misconduct at Skidmore, I decided to turn my final paper from last semester into an independent study this semester," Seidmon said.

Seidmon and Moore are hoping to determine whether students are adhering to the Honor Code; if the data collected proves students are not adhering, they hope to find a way to "better the academic environment so that everyone respects and upholds it."

The project will be continued after the survey data is collected and analyzed.

"We will continue the project by holding discussions and forums and openly communicating about how we can make students feel most comfortable so that honesty and integrity are upheld," Seidmon said.

The survey will be sent out via e-mail to 650 randomly selected students on Tuesday, March 29.

Seidmon said the survey is short and only takes about five minutes to complete.

The survey asks questions about plagiarism in high school and at Skidmore and students' perceptions on the Honor Code.

Privacy is protected, Seidmon said, as "the survey is SSL encrypted and doesn't collect IP addresses, so there is no way to trace the results back to any particular student."

Seidmon hopes all students who receive the survey will participate.

She urges her peers to "help better the academic community here at Skidmore as well as among other small colleges" saying, "you've got nothing to lose."

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