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But how are we to interpret these scandalous stories? And how should we act/react as supervisors who value genuine scholarship, rigour and truthfulness in research and research writing?
I suspect many a writer would acknowledge that somewhere, somehow they have likely failed to fully or correctly attribute everything they have ever written. Small acts of indiscretion, hurried writing and poor practices are part of the human condition of authoring – yet if experienced writers can err knowledge of what should be done, then how much harder it is for novice writers?
And what of those situations when ignorance plays a role?
And yet how many of us feel well equipped to ensure our students develop and maintain scholarly practices and attitudes that hedge against inadvertent plagiarism?
It takes time to become adroit at avoiding plagiarism, integrating and citing the work of others into one’s own contribution.
For individuals personal and professional fallout is inevitable, irrespective of the facts (which may explain why these stories attract so much attention in the volatile world of politics).
When plagiarism involves stealing from other doctoral theses, it is abundantly unfair to the original scholar and makes a mockery of their labours.Plagiarism that isn’t a headline story I am certain that most everyday plagiarism occurs out of ignorance or oversight or through sloppy, unscholarly practices where due care is relinquished under pressure.Everyday we work with language; reading, writing and talking about it so that it becomes part of our own thinking.Universities are increasingly taking a more proactive role to alert doctoral students of the dangers of plagiarism, but, in my experience, few go further than warning against cheating behaviours.Much responsibility for overseeing the support and development of appropriate practices continues to default to the supervisor.If supervisors don’t regard writing support as their responsibility and institutions are poorly resourced to provide support, doctoral scholars can be left without guidance and help.In addition, not all students (or supervisors) care equally about the value of words nor the craft of writing; they may instead prioritise other researcher skills such as perfecting lab techniques or mastering mathematical or theoretical concepts.The vast majority of doctoral students undertaking the massive challenge of writing a Ph D thesis wish to excel as researchers and scholars. However, in the same way that we don’t expect doctoral students to begin their journey as fully formed writers, we cannot presume a mastery of integrity practices from the get go.High profile cases of plagiarism and unethical practices in research are major concerns for institutions.Reporting on this study Tracey Bretag and Rowena Harper Bretag__Harper_Brekkie_session_ suggest incidences of plagiarism and cheating are increasing because of a ‘perfect storm’ of co-occurring influences: These are precisely the factors we have been identifying as drivers for the changing doctorate and as key pressure points for doctoral writers and researchers.Clear-cut intentional cheating such as outsourcing the writing of the thesis is widely recognised as unacceptable however, what about smaller incursions and everyday failings such as failing to identify the boundary between what is common knowledge and what might have ownership issues?