Digital Culture Library Issues

Plagiarism and Academic Integrity

On my campus, as well as others, there has of late been a terrific focus placed upon student plagiarism. I’ve been asked to teach a handful of plagiarism workshops (4 down, 1 to go…this Thursday, if anyone’s in town) and I was recently asked to produce a “statement” of a sort to be used in advertising a conference on Academic Integrity that is being held here at UTC. So I said:

There is a lot of confusion among students as to citation in academic writing, including what needs a citation and who should be cited in specific circumstances. My feeling is that if we continue teaching the specifics of what, who, and how, we’re missing the real issue. Students need to understand why we insist on citation, and the purpose and goals of this very specific sort of writing. We as educators need to encourage students to be willing to see themselves as part of the academic dialogue, as a piece of the ongoing attempt at the creation of knowledge. Students need to see academic writing as a conversation between themselves, the professor, and the rest of the Academy, and not as a hoop to jump through or a check-mark on their transcript. A large part of their vision of academic writing is formed by the way educators present assignments, and I think that we can better serve the student by re-imagining the way this is done.

Plagiarism is something that strikes me as old news…always been here, always will, and until we can convince professors that traditional “write a paper on X” assignments aren’t the best sorts, we’ll always have to deal with it. I need to find a way to get my workshop online…it uses music as a metaphor for academic writing, and shows how something can move from “bad” reuse to “ok” reuse, and how to think about academic writing in a different way. I believe that the current “millenial” student really has a difficult time understanding plagiarism, and the workshop is designed to get them thinking in a new way. I’ll put that on the pile of things to do in the next year or so…

Library Issues

Emerald and TurnItIn

I have difficulty relating my feelings about the announcement by Emerald that they have partnered with TurnItIn (again no link love from me…for my views on TiI, feel free to look at my last post on the matter). I do not believe that a journal publisher would voluntarily show such disregard for the Intellectual Property of their authors.

The partnership with iParadigms allows Emerald to address the problems of plagiarism and copyright infringement in two ways:

  • By allowing students, tutors, researchers and editors to compare content that they are submitting, marking, editing or publishing with content previously published by Emerald through the Turnitin and iThenticate services. This will alert the enquirer to possible duplication or plagiarism, and allow them to take the appropriate action, for example revision.
  • By allowing Emerald to be proactive and check submitted work for copyright infringement against content it has previously published, plus 8.6 billion web pages, tens of millions of articles in more than 15,000 periodicals, and copyright free material.

Let’s deconstruct this press release, briefly:

  • iParadigms is described as: “developers of the Turnitin plagiarism detection product for academic institutions and the iThenticate plagiarism detection product for content publishers”
  • This agreement “reinforces Emerald’s proactive stance on plagiarism, and ensures that Emerald content continues to maintain its high standard of integrity.”
  • Malik AboRashid, Senior Director of Business Development, from iParadigms makes a statement that includes the phrase “confirms Emerald’s commitment to supporting integrity in scholarship and their position as a publisher of high quality research”
  • Emerald’s Editorial Director Rebecca Marsh’s statement includes “…help to promote integrity in academic research …” and “…guard against plagiarized and duplicated work appearing in Emerald journals…”
  • Then without warning, we get one mention of copyright: “…Allowing Emerald to be proactive and check submitted work for copyright infringement against content it has previously published…”

The amount wrong with that last bullet could be a novel, but lets start with the fact that they’re now concerned with “copyright infringement” instead of plagiarism. I thought that TurnItIn was a tool used for upholding academic integrity…what sort of “copyright infringement” might be of concern to a academic paper and publisher?

Is Emerald prepared to apply Fair Use principles to these instances? Or will the author simply be told to “fix” the work when nothing is legally wrong? Emerald also, given the above excerpt, appears as if it can’t check its own databases…do they really need TurnItIn to compare a submitted paper to their own holdings?

I, along with other academics, believe strongly that TurnItIn is profiteering off the un-compensating backs of the students. I really hope that a campus student organization at a university where TiI is used takes notice of this soon.

As noted in a comment on ACRLog, this is remarkably humorous when you consider that Emerald has been called out in the past for shady intellectual property treatments:

A librarian at Cornell University has discovered that a major scholarly-journal company, Emerald, has often published the same article in multiple journals without noting that the material had already appeared elsewhere.

“I found journals that were complete copies of one another,” says Philip M. Davis, a life-sciences librarian at Cornell.

He found that Emerald, a British company that publishes journals on management-and-information science, had republished 409 articles in 67 journals from 1989 to 2003. Mr. Davis says that he contacted the authors of the articles and found that, in some cases, Emerald had asked to republish articles, while in other cases authors could not recall whether they had been contacted.