5 Things I want to Discuss at the 5th International Plagiarism Conference

Plagiarism Advice LogoThis will be my last post on Plagiarism Today (other than the podcast tomorrow) before I head to the UK. For the next few days after, I’ll have the honor of being with some of the brightest minds on the topic of plagiarism in the world, an incredible and exciting opportunity that I’m grateful for.

As such, I wanted to think some about the issues I, personally, would like to learn more about, ponder and discuss while I’m there and put them down for others to comment on.

While, I doubt that I’ll have time in the two and a half days of the event to go too deep into all of these issues, I’m still hoping to at least touch on all of them with the other people there. Also, I know other people will be bringing issues that are important to them that I didn’t think about (something I’m also excited about), so this list will likely change after I get there.

Still, as I’m looking at the conference schedule, these five topics are the ones I’m planning most of my time around, at least right now.

On that note, the conference itself is broken up into six different themes, which are then split up across five tracks. The tracks include:

  1. Cultural Perspectives: How views on plagiarism differ across the globe.
  2. Engaging Students: How to talk about plagiarism with students.
  3. Institutional Approaches: How schools address plagiarism.
  4. Detection Technologies: The technology used to detect plagiarism.
  5. Open Track: Miscellaneous topics that don’t fit into the above tracks.

All in all, the conference gives a very wide perspective on modern plagiarism issues and has a decidedly international feel. When I went to the conference four years ago, at the 3rd event, I felt as if I was leaving with a lot of new knowledge but, most importantly, a lot of new perspectives, something that you just can’t quite get online.

So I decided to set some goals for myself this conference and to make them public, both to push myself to go after these points and in hopes that others, including those attending and those who are not, there might join me on these topics.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the five topics I’ll be targeting while I’m there.

1. New Methods and Approaches for Making Plagiarism-Resistant Assignments

The number one question I get asked by instructors is not “How do I detect plagiarism?” but “How do I stop it?”

A big step in reducing plagiarism is crafting plagiarism-resistant assignments that can not be trivially copied and pasted from other sources. Many of the steps instructors can take are obvious but are difficult to do in modern classrooms.

There are several great workshops on this topic at the conference in the “Institutional Approaches” track and a lot of people who have done research on this topic there. Obviously, this is an area where I see a lot of potential benefit to teachers and am looking forward to bringing whatever information I can back home.

2. How Attitudes Toward Intellectual Property Relate to Plagiarism

Obviously, this combines my two biggest areas of interest, but I think there’s a lot of room for dialog on how shifts in attitudes toward intellectual property more broadly are impacting plagiarism in the classroom.

Unfortunately, the session best targeted at that topic was cancelled. However, a keynote by Kirby Fierguson, the filmmaker behind “Everything is a Remix” is an excellent chance to talk about these issues. Also, I know from experience that a lot of the conference attendees are thinking about these issues as well and have a lot of great things to say.

3. How Cultural Differences Affect Plagiarism Enforcement

While there’s a lot of talk about how cultural differences affect what students and teachers define as plagiarism, there’s less talk on what that means for enforcement. In particular, I’m interested in whether schools see plagiarism as an educational or a disciplinary issue, one they need to teach and improve on or one where it is treated as cheating.

There’s obviously a lot of gray area here, but the difference in the way schools approach plagiarism is wide and often depends on country or location. There’s an entire track dedicated to cultural issues and at least one workshop dedicated directly to this specific subject on the 18th. I’ll be eager to see what the presenter has to say.

4. Differences in Plagiarism Responses for Students and Professors

When a student is thought to be plagiarizing, there is an academic policy that is put into place with a strict procedures and rules for what needs to happen next and, most likely, what punishments need to be doled out.

But if an instructor is caught plagiarizing, whether it’s in a submitted research paper or even previous work they had done as part of getting their degree, the path is much less clear. This leads to very peculiar results including professors not being held accountable for plagiarism that would get almost any student expelled or instructors having degrees pulled for plagiarism that would be, at worst, a warning to a current student.

There’s a keynote by Dr. Virginia Barbour on publication ethics and a workshop shortly after in the open track on cases of professor plagiarism, needless to say I’m excited about both.

5. Standardization of Plagiarism Enforcement

Finally, though somewhat related to number four, there’s a lot of room for discussion about standardizing plagiarism enforcement across schools.

Copyright, for example, takes a lot of criticism for being overly complicated and ambiguous. Plagiarism rules are much the same way, but where copyright is standardized within a country and, in some regards, internationally, there are no standards for plagiarism enforcement, even in the same city or, sometimes, the same school.

This results in a lot of odd cases where students can do largely the same thing but see extremely different outcomes of their cases.

There are a lot of talks in the Institutional Approaches track that deal with standardizing a policy across a single institution, which is a crucial first step to broader standardization, but there is less about standardization across a region or internationally.

However, I’m certain those who are thinking about standardization will have plenty to say on the topic.

Bottom Line

All in all, I’m ecstatic about this conference and the choices for workshops. The speakers are going to be great there’s at least one talk I’m interested in during every time period.

More importantly though, I’m looking forward to seeing everyone and talking with some of the best minds on the topic of plagiarism in the world.

I anticipate that I’ll learn a lot while I’m there and that, when I come back, I’ll have a great deal of information to share.

In the meantime though, I want your input. What topics would you like more information on and what would you like to see covered, either here on Plagiarism Today or at the conference? Leave a comment below with your suggestions.

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