Exploring University Students’ Perceptions of Plagiarism: A Focus Group Study
Keywords:plagiarism, reference, focus group, undergraduate students
Plagiarism is a matter of great concern to those who teach in higher education. The increase in technology has resulted in plagiarism becoming a source of anxiety for many students. Universities are continually being called upon to devote more time and resources to combating plagiarism. However, what of their understanding of students’ attitudes towards and understandings of plagiarism? It is critical to understand student perceptions towards plagiarism to develop approaches to combat plagiarism. This paper reports on a focus group study that generated qualitative data on students’ perceptions of plagiarism. Informal group discussions were held with first-year students to show how plagiarism appears from the undergraduate student's perspective. An interview schedule was developed to provide an overall direction for the discussion. The schedule followed a semi-structured, open-ended format to enable participants to set their agenda. The analysis revealed that students lack understanding of plagiarism, have certain assumptions about plagiarism, and have negative attitudes towards assigned tasks. This paper argues that there is merit in understanding students’ perspectives regarding plagiarism to develop successful strategies to promote academic integrity and prevent plagiarism. The paper concludes with a recommendation that lecturers at tertiary institutions need to teach explicitly plagiarism, how to avoid it, and referencing.
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