Address cause of plagiarism

1st February 2008 at 00:00
The recent concern expressed by Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lectureres, that students "do not seem to know the difference between legitimate research and plagiarism from the internet" cannot come as any great revelation, given that pupils from primary level upwards seem to copy and paste with abandon, and probably go uncorrected by most teachers.

But in tackling plagiarism, surely the emphasis and resources should be on education and prevention, not detection and punishment. Most of this plagiarism is almost certainly unwitting and we should focus on the cause rather than the effect.

Information literacy skills taught at an early stage and throughout the secondary years could help to address this problem.

Jonathan Smart, Academic support co-ordinator (skills), University of Plymouth.

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