Monthly Archives: July 2011

A pandemical plague of plagiarism

This post has been inspired by a couple of very interesting pieces I read over the last couple of days. The first was this article, written by an associate professor from NYU. Unfortunately the original article has been taken down for some legal reason, but you can read a summary here. The second was this piece written by an academic from Imperial College. Both articles bemoan the current attitude of students regarding plagiarism, and both also have something to say about the steps that can be taken by academics and institutions to combat it. I would urge those who are interested to read both pieces and the attached discussion in the comments to the articles.

This is a highly emotive topic, with a lot of issues that surround it. Instances of genuine plagiarism used to be extremely rare, but the advent of the internet, PDF papers and wikipedia made it just so easy to copy and paste sentences, paragraphs, even whole sections into your essay. Faculty members that I know of have found that an increasing proportion of their time is spent dealing with cases of plagiarism, and efforts to educate students about exactly what plagiarism is, and how to avoid it in their work, have only been partially successful. Institutions have in general failed to address the issue, or are only just waking up to the fact that they need to address it. In many cases, institutions have strict rules and heavy sanctions for plagiarism cases, which if they were to be strictly applied to the enormous volume of cases which now occur, would mean a substantial proportion of the student body would be heavily penalised, or even asked to leave the institution.

All that aside, in keeping with the theme of this blog, my aim here is to discuss the technology and software that is currently being used to address (and in some cases, exacerbate) the problem.

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Reference Management Software – Yes, again. It’s important.

Protoscholar recently, and very kindly, linked to my previous post on computing skills for students and made two very pertinent comments, which you can read here. The first comment was that I’d missed out any kind of software for doing qualitative analysis. This omission is entirely a product of my own ignorance I’m afraid – I come from a very experimental background and know very little about qualitative research and the relevant tools available. I’m happy to link to protoscholar’s article and the recommendations for qualitative software made there.

The second comment was that ‘Reference Management Software’ and ‘Do regular backups’ were too important to be filed away at the end under ‘Miscellaneous’. This is absolutely right – in fact I regard the use of Reference Management software to be the absolute number one, top tip that every student, post-grad or academic needs to know. I notice there are already some good articles on protoscholar’s site about various bits of software, so I’m linking to them here.

Just to reiterate – if you’re a student and you’re not using some kind of reference management software, you’re making your life so much more difficult than it needs to be. It doesn’t really matter which one you choose, as long as you use something!

All via protoscholar.com:

A very useful chart on different features of the most popular RM software.
A useful article on organising your research.

Zotero.
My Favourite RM tool – Mendeley.

TTFN.