• What role does the writing center play in educating students about plagiarism? Overall, what is the role of the writing center?
    • According to Theresa Miranda, the role of the writing center is to act as a place that the students can go for help during any stage of the writing process. Students and tutors often see the writing center as a place for question and answer rather than collaboration and discussion. Through discussion and sharing ideas, tutors and students gain a better understanding of the material and the concepts on the page. However, this sort of collaboration is often seen as plagiarism in itself.
    • Often, students see the writing center as a safe place where they can engage in a "positive, supportive, and collaborative environment" (Gruber 49). However, students often do not understand the concept of academic integrity and do not understand that "not acknowledging a source can lead to such severe actions as expulsion from the university" (50). While it may be argued that the issue of plagiarism must be explained within the writing classroom, the students view of the writing center as a safe place often has tutors facing the task of explaining the rules of academic integrity.
    • According to Gruber, writing center tutors are alerted to plagiarism in many of the same ways that instructors are: remembering passages from outside reading or texts taught in previous classes, stylistic changes in the students writing, "or a student's inability to explain in her own words what she meant to say in a paragraph" (52). In the instance of these sorts of plagiarism, the tutor should then "take a confidential, non-threadening, positive, and encouraging approach to [the] student's text, reinforcing the notion that the writing center is a 'safe place'" (52).
  • Is the writing assistance received from the writing center a form of plagiarism?
    • It has been argued by professors and critics that assistance received from tutors results in plagiarized papers. According to Irene L. Clark, much of what was written in the 70s and 80s about writing centers suggests that WCs? were merely a sanctioned form of plagiarism (155). The problem is in the definition of plagiarism and how it differs from collaboration. In the past, as Clark writes, WCs? were labs that focused on skill and grammar drills, whereas now, they are centers that focus on the whole writing process (156). Because most WCs? stay away from proofreading and focus on improving the writer instead of the written product through collaboration, critics have become uncomfortable with the type of assistance that students receive from the WC. This discomfort leads to the work being deemed "plagiarized."
  • Should a Writing Center focus on collaboration of ideas or simply proofread work? To what extend should WC tutors assist with the development of ideas versus improving the written product that the student already possesses?
    • This question leads back to the proofreading vs. collaboration debate, which remains unsettled. Most WCs? choose not to proofread student essays because proofreading acts as a way for students to "fix the errors" in their essays without having to do much work themselves. However, those who advocate proofreading in the WC say that pointing out patterns in students' writing, especially in ESL students, will help them to detect the patterns when they write and eliminate the problems (Cogie 18).
    • This is still a controversial issue and can be seen as the center of the debate about whether writing assistance from the WC is actually plagiarism.
  • How does a WC create rules / what rules are often created to ensure that plagiarism is not an issue?
    • According to Clark, Gruber, and Robinson, there certain rules that WC tutors should follow to remain out of the line of fire:
      • Never play student advocates in teacher-student relationships;
      • Never evaluate or second-guess any teacher's syllabus, assignments, comments, or grades (Clark 157).
      • Leave action (with regards to plagiarism) to the discretion of the professor (Gruber 54).
    • If these (or similar) guidelines are followed, the tutor ensures that the WC is neither interfering with classroom instruction nor is it blamed for possible plagiarism. Although it may seem that these rules simply protect the WC from plagiarism accusations, most WCs? implement similar rules to allow the professor to handle the situation while remaining a "safe" place for students.
  • How does the writing center approach the issue of plagiarism and academic honesty while still remaining a "safe place" for students?
    • According to Gruber, during certain sessions, a student might not be receptive to the tutor's suggestion that they need to document their sources. Students feel that they can "get away with" not documenting sources that their instructor is unfamiliar with, and the confrontation between student and WC tutor is uncomfortable, creating an environment that is not conducive to learning. As a general rule for most WCs?, no information is to be given to instructors about whether a student has visited or what was discussed, thus creating a safe environment and solidifying the trust between student and tutor. In a case when the student indicates that they are going to hand in a (knowingly) plagiarized paper, the tutor faces the dilemma: violate the trust of the student and the policies of the "safe haven" by telling the instructor, or obey the rules and respect the student's right to privacy, thereby allowing them to commit academic dishonesty.
    • Although it is easy to make the overall ethical judgement that the tutor must always make someone (their supervisor, the professor, etc) aware of the situation, it is difficult to make such a generalization given the differences between WCs? across the country. Gruber suggests that the WC tutor "find the way that justifies [his] actions to the students, the instructors, the administration, and to ourselves," keeping in mind that the WC tutor is in a delicate situation and must maintain (whenever possible) the trust with the student (60). So the only answer to the question of how to maintain the "safe place" environment when faced with the issue of plagiarism is to discuss the issue plainly with the student. Only when they have disregarded the tutor's advice to thoroughly cite all sources does the issue of violating the safe place come up. Certainly in all situations when the student is receptive to advice about avoiding plagiarism, such advice should be given in a discussion, collaborative format.
  • How should the writing center approach plagiarism in different disciplines (such as the sciences, etc.)?

  • Helpful links:
    • Talab, Rosemary. "A Student Online Plagiarism Guide: Detection And Prevention Resources." TechTrends?: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning 48.6 ([YEAR]): 15-18. Academic Search Premier. 19 March 2007. http://search.ebscohost.com.
    • Thompson, Carol C. "Unintended Lessons: Plagiarism and the University." Teachers College Record 108.12 (2006): 2439. ERIC. 19 March 2007. http://search.ebscohost.com.
    • Freedman, Michael P. "A Tale of Plagiarism and a New Paradigm." Phi Delta Kappan 85.7 (2004): . ERIC. 19 March 2007. http://search.ebscohost.com.

  • Clark, Irene. "Writing Centers and Plagiarism." Perspectives on Plagiarism and Intellectual Property in a Postmodern World. Ed. Lise Buranen and Alice M. Roy. Albany, NY: SUNY P, 1999. 155-168.
  • Cogie, Jane, Kim Strain, and Sharon Lorinskas. "Avoiding the Proofreading Trap: The Value of the Error Correction Process." Writing Center Journal 19.2 (1999): 7-24.
  • Gruber, Sibylle. "Coming to Terms with Contradictions: Online Materials, Plagiarism, and the Writing Center." Writing Center Journal 19.1 (1998): 49-72.
    • Miranda, Theresa. A Case Study: Personal and Social Ethics in the Writing Center. , . ERIC. 14 March 2007. http://search.ebscohost.com.
  • Mullin, Joan A., Wallace, Ray, and Urbana, IL. National Council of Teachers of English. Intersections: Theory-Practice in the Writing Center. ERIC. 15 March 2007. http://search.ebscohost.com.
  • Robertson, Mary C., and Rachel Apanewicz. "Where Is the Line? How Ethical Questions Reflect a Writing Center's Philosophy." (1993). ERIC. 14 March 2007. http://search.ebscohost.com.