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SGarza: ReconceivingPlagiarismInTheClassroom

In the article, "Shameless! Reconceiving the Problem of Plagiarism" Robert Briggs urges instructors to devleop new ways of thinking about plagiarism and pedagogy, and is troubled with the moral implications of plagiarism.

Briggs discusses the way that plagiarism differs from discipline to discipline. It is the humanities that have the most problematic relationship with plagiarism.

Briggs talks about the "possible objection that removing the morality which underpins policies against plagiarism thereby effaces the ground for seeing plagiarism as a problem" (20). Meaning, if plagiarism is not seen as morally wrong, then it can be seen as an innocent act. As Briggs states, "the problem with this moral assessment of behavior, then, is that it presumes not ony that people have knowledge of what constitutes appropriate behaviour but also that they are capable of acting on the basis of that knowledge" (20).

Briggs believes that plagiarism should be looked upon as a writing problem, not a moral problem, and as such, he believes that if plagiarism is depicted as a moral issue it can actually enable or encourage plagiarism. The problem lies in the "moralistic notion" that research is borrowing others ideas for an "original" assignment. It is not about morality, but about skills. What needs to be stressed to students then, according to Briggs is the idea that getting away with plagiarism is not so much about the end result of a grade, but the fact taht "original ideas aren't worth much unless students have sufficiently demonstrated how those ideas have been devleoped in response to a specific body of published work" (21).

Briggs believes that the way to incorporate this into a pedagogy is to take it on a one to one basis, in which instructors attempt to help students improve their referencing and writing, to help them become more comfortable in the academic world, not to punish them and give them lessons on morality.

"Not all plagiarists are cheats" Briggs writes. At the root, plagiarism is a learning and communicating problem. It is only when instructors see plagiarism as a moral action that they are doing a disservice to their students.

  • Briggs, Robert. "Shameless! Reconceiving the Problem of Plagiarism." Australian Universities Review. 46:1 (2003). ERIC. 12 March 2007.
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Page last modified on July 28, 2007, at 11:32 AM CST