Measuring international students' plagiarism in a private HE provider pathway program

Louise Kaktins

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


    Australian universities aregrappling with the challenge of plagiarism among students, particularlyinternational students, with a reliance on anti-plagiarism software such asTurnitin to address the problem. Measuring plagiarism in this way haslimitations, and this paper addresses academic life in the measured universityby analysing the role plagiarism metrics play in developing internationalstudents’ academic identities.

    Two schools of thought have emergedregarding plagiarism detection software. One highlights the negative,classifying it as “plagiarism police” (Levin, 2006) and demonstrating adverseeffects on student learning (Hayes & Introna, 2005); the other its positiveuse within a pedagogical framework to enhance students’ academic integrity(Davis & Carroll, 2009). In practice, the aims and impacts of such softwarecan be at odds. Key limitations of anti-plagiarism software include aninability to differentiate between correctly cited and plagiarised passages, inabilityto identity plagiarised figures and tables, and inability to deal with scanneddocuments (Eisa, Salim & Alzahrani 2015).As a consequence, students may spend time and effort in mastering avoidancetechniques while remaining immune to the essence of academic scholarlyintegrity.

    This paper presents the results of astudy of plagiarism among international students at a private higher educationprovider in Sydney. Quantitative and qualitative data collection methods wereused in combination to assess the extent of plagiarism, students’ attitudestowards plagiarism and concerns regarding the use of Turnitin. SPSS analysis ofthe quantitative data illustrated a positive correlation between higher uses ofdigital technologies and susceptibility to plagiarism. This is ironic in thecontext of the technological “solution” to plagiarism offered by Turnitin, withhigher computer use by international students increasing the likelihood ofplagiarism, and the ability to avoid detection. From the qualitative data, studentsreport substantial differences in attitudes to plagiarism between home country andAustralian education, and reflect on the challenges encountered in acclimatisingto Western academic values.

    Academics are reluctant to encouragestudent obsession with similarity percentages to the detriment of genuineacademic writing skills. However, higher education providers increasingly viewclear-cut metrics as attractive (and easily implemented) solutions to a deeplycomplex and widespread phenomenon. This is particularly the case for privateproviders, who often deal with arbitrary and inflexible limits (such as amaximum of 8% Turnitin score) set by university management. Learning isenmeshed in a context of quantified criteria, simplistic checklists, andscaffolds so that students become conditioned to viewing such measures as endsin themselves and may lose sight of their role as mere (formative) transitionalaids on the road to internalising academic cultural norms. Internationalstudents are on a challenging learning trajectory when they enter highereducation. As “apprentice” researchers (McGowan, 2006), it is clear they willmake mistakes initially but improve as they progress in their academic work.This learning process should not be distorted by the negative impact ofinflexible and rigid institutional uses of Turnitin scores.


    Davis,M. & Carroll, J. (2009). Formative feedback within plagiarism education: Is

              there a role for text-matching software?International Journal for Educational

              Integrity,5 (2), 58-70


    Eisa,T.A.E., Salim, N. & Alzahrani, S. (2015). Existing plagiarism detection techniques: A systematic mapping of thescholarly literature. Online        InformationReview, 39 (3), 383-400.


    Hayes,N. & Introna, L. (2005). Systems for the production of plagiarists? The

              implications arising from the use ofplagiarism detection systems in UK

              universities for Asian students. Journal of Academic Ethics, 3, 55-73.

    Levin,P. (2006) Why the writing is on the wallfor the plagiarism police. Retrieved

     14 December, 2015 from

    McGowan,U. (2006). Plagiarism framework: Student as apprentice researcher.

    Centre for Learning andProfessional Development, University of Adelaide.

     Retrieved October 29, 2009 from


    Original languageEnglish
    Pages1- 2
    Number of pages2
    Publication statusPublished - 2016
    EventInternational Academic Identities Conference: Academic Life in the Measured University: Pleasures, paradoxes and politics - University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
    Duration: 29 Jun 20161 Jul 2016


    ConferenceInternational Academic Identities Conference


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