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Attitudes towards plagiarism culturally relative: study

Though all cultures perceive contract cheating as wrong, nearly half of ESL students see plagiarism – a subtler form of cheating – as less problematic. They think universities make ‘too much of a fuss of people cheating’ in this manner. A fifth of them also believe ‘it’s okay to cheat a little in assignments’. Only seven per cent of students from English-speaking backgrounds agreed.

This was illuminated in a recent survey of 1,077 university students in Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

The survey also found that a quarter of males, compared to 15 per cent of females, weren’t worried about others plagiarising.

Students in the UK were more likely to perceive plagiarism flippantly than those in Australia and New Zealand.

Commenting on the survey, Associate Professor Tracey Bretag, director of the UniSA Business School Office for Academic Integrity, said its results are supported by “decades” of previous research.

She claimed that many ESL students plagiarise because it’s harder for them to avoid it.”[Many are] struggling with manipulating the language.

“If you don’t have a really good command of the language … instead of repeating three or four words from a text, you might use eight, nine or ten words.”

The survey was funded by online study support service Studiosity and conducted by Professor Marcia Devlin, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Victoria University) and Doctor Jade McKay (The Right Consulting Group).

Studiosity CEO Michael Larsen said its results indicate the need for universities to better inform students of anti-plagiarism protocol. “No doubt many international students arrive in Australia with very different understandings of what ‘academic integrity and honesty’ mean,” he said.

He could in part be referring to those from China. Until recently, due to Xi Jinping’s crackdown, the country treated intellectual property infringement leniently. Hence, plagiarism was, and possibly remains rife – including in academia.

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