Does educational integrity mean teaching students NOT to 'use their own words'?
Keywords:plagiarism, 'own words', spoken and written language, re-usable language, international students, English as an Additional Language (EAL)
AbstractIn the face of increasing evidence of plagiarism in higher education the maintenance of educational integrity relies on the capacity of universities to strengthen their systems for consistent detection of and penalties for deliberate plagiarism, cheating and other fraudulent practices. However, there is a danger that the resolve to do so may be weakened if these systems become overloaded by the detection of a high incidence of unintentional plagiarism. The focus of this paper is on international students for whom English is an additional language (EAL) and whose plagiarism is most easily recognised, as many set out on their degree courses with no experience in a Western academic environment, an unsteady command of English grammar and a relatively limited range of vocabulary. The advice to 'use their own words' in order to avoid accidental plagiarism may be more confusing than helpful for them. This paper proposes that far from trapping students in their existing repertoire of words, the teaching, assessment and feedback advice provided within university courses should explicitly support their students' development of the formal language that is valued in academic writing. It is suggested that the basis for doing so is an understanding of the essential differences between informal, spoken language and the more formal style required in written assignments. An educational approach that successfully removes innocent plagiarists from the disciplinary system could become a means for assuring a university's educational integrity. Keywords: plagiarism, 'own words', spoken and written language, re-usable language, international students, English as an Additional Language (EAL).