UniversityUnderstanding student plagiarism
Understanding student plagiarism
July 10, 2013
July 10, 2013


In a recently published issue of The LaSallian, the Student Discipline Formation Office (SDFO) recorded 25 cases of academic dishonesty in AY 2012-2013 – the most commonly committed major offense in the previous year’s accounting for a quarter of the total number of major offenses.


School’s provisions

The Oxford Dictionary (2013) defines plagiarism, a form of academic dishonesty, as “the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own,” which is also stipulated in Section of the Student Handbook (2012).

Professors are persuasively allowed to automatically give a grade of 0.0 or a failing mark to a student caught committing plagiarism or other forms of cheating, preventing them to further pursue the course.

Section 4.13 of the Student Handbook, meanwhile provides insight on how students can practice academic honesty by giving due credit to the author through proper citation of references according to the format prescribed by their respective fields.

The ENGLRES course, catered by the Department of English and Applied Linguistics (DEAL), is a mandatory course taken by all undergraduate students in the University that serves as preparation for academic research writing.  This course teaches students on how to properly cite sources, following the format set forth by the American Psychological Association (APA).


Whose fault is it?

Plagiarism is a big issue and should be addressed by the University, according to DEAL professor Jessie Barrot. “The fact that academic dishonesty, be it intentional or not, is the most common offense committed by DLSU students is quite alarming; the statistics also tell us that there is an urgent need to address this issue,” he states.

Barrot believes that the lack of note-taking skills such as summarizing and paraphrasing are the root causes of plagiarism. “In some instances, students feel that when they have paraphrased or summarized a particular text, that would be enough. They feel that they don’t have to cite the text anymore,” he furthers.

Atty. Christopher Cruz, Director of the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), shares Barrot’s view that students may plagiarize unintentionally due to unfamiliarity with certain rules in citation. “Sometimes, they omit certain citations; there might be no intention to plagiarize because of ignorance of the rules,” he says. He acknowledges, however, the fact that some students will deliberately plagiarize due to the advances in technology, and will resort to “cut and paste”.

University Research Coordination Office (URCO) Director Madelene Sta. Maria enumerates various reasons why students consider plagiarism such as citing the presence of a high competition for grades, the impersonal relationship between students and professors, the perception that peers engage in academically dishonest acts, and the lack of drive with school work.


Students’ views

Marcus Alcantara (II, BSA) believes that students have more creative ways in committing acts of academic dishonesty, thus the increase of such cases. He further adds that plagiarism is a manifestation of student’s laziness in complying with school requirements, rushing to complete the their tasks by simply “copy-pasting” from online resources.

Henric Cabiscuelas (II, CIV) posits that students will resort to academic dishonesty if the professor makes the course too challenging for the class. He explains, “The more [the professor] makes it harder for the class to pass, the more the students will do anything necessary, that includes committing academic dishonesty.”

Raphael Seña (III, ECE2) stresses that academic dishonesty has always been a prevalent problem in any educational institution, but the root causes such as professor’s teaching methods, a student’s diligence or peer pressure should be considered when giving the penalties.


Beyond the academe

Last year, Senator Vicente Sotto III was accused and found plagiarizing multiple sources in his speech on the controversial Reproductive Health Bill. It was found that he had taken passages from bloggers, most notably from Sarah Pope, as well as misconstruing lines from former United States Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s 1966 Day of Affirmation Speech.

Seña believes that it is this kind of image portrayed by public figures that influences students to perform acts of academic dishonesty. “Politicians showed us we can get away with a lot of things given a good argument, cunning, and mamakaawa, and if it works… why [wouldn’t] someone follow that?” he says.

Atty. Cruz, however, points out that Sotto never got away with it, citing that public outcry was a sufficient penalty. “Some may look at it [thinking] the senator [got] away. But in reality, he never got away because of public opinion, which I think is important,” he explains.


Fixing the problem

Barrot asserts that students should be taught the necessary skills in proper citation through utilizing online plagiarism checkers. “I ask students to use online plagiarism checker during the drafting stage of their papers. This will eliminate or significantly reduce the possibility of submitting papers that contain plagiarized items,” he explains.

Atty. Cruz also mentions that DLSU uses Turnitin, an online service that verifies if written works were plagiarized through a database of papers, books, and other sources. He notes, however, certain flaws to the system such as flagging quoted lines without considering whether the quoted statement was cited in-text or not.

He furthers that the IPO plans on conducting an information campaign on how to avoid plagiarism and student awareness on intellectual property, and considers adding plagiarism as a module in Personal Effectiveness (PERSEF) or as a major topic in ENGLRES to further dissuade students from plagiarizing.