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Why has it been claimed that students who use English as a second language are more likely to plagiarise?

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Why has it been claimed that students who use English as a second language are more likely to plagiarise?

The problem of academic integrity in institutions of higher learning has received much attention over recent years. This is highly attributed to increase in plagiarism amongst English Second Language (ESL) students in colleges and universities (Introna and Hayes 2007). The number of ESL students in the westernized institutions has increased due to education becoming global and internationalized. As a result, numerous teaching and learning issues have emerged including increased incidences of plagiarism. Plagiarism involves using the words or ideas of other people without acknowledging them. It exists in the form of institutional rules and regulations (Myers 1998 cited in Norris 2007, p.3). Literature on academic integrity shows that plagiarism is more prevalence among ESL students compared to English speaking students (Introna and Hayes 2007;Lankamp 2009). This paper argues that ESL students are more likely to plagiarise because of cultural factors, ignorance of plagiarism rules and conventions, and lack of authorial identity.

It is claimed by many researchers that ESL students are more likely to plagiarise because of their cultural background (Shei 2005; Introna and Hayes 2007; Chien 2014; Norris 2007; Gilmore, Strickland, Timmerman, Maher and Feldon 2010). According to Chien (2014) teachers in non-western countries cultures tend to follow the educational philosophies of their culture that encourage plagiarism and this directly impacts on students ability, especially when it come writing assignments. For instance in China, referencing others’ work when students submit their assignments is less emphasized and therefore students get used to this philosophy and find it difficult to adjust when they go to study in westernized institutions (Chien 2014). For societies that value collectivism such as China and Taiwan, students tend to write collaboratively or seek for assistance from others and present the work as their own which leads to plagiarism (Shei 2005). Still, the culture of ESL students that promotes memorization and repetition in education encourages them to plagiarise as observed Chien (2014).

As more ESL students go to pursue higher education in westernized institutions, the problem of plagiarism begins to surface because they have different perceptions of plagiarism (Shei 2005). Imitation, according to Shei (2005) is integral part of education practice in the Chinese culture. In such culture, pupils begin learning by imitating others in stead of being creative. When students learn how to write, they are often encouraged to read and memorize sections of classical works. They then use these works to write individual assignments without acknowledging the original writers (Shei 2005). Thus, lack of emphasis on originality in other cultures causes ESL students to write assignments that are highly plagiarized as postulated Introna and Hayes (2007). Most research on the effect of culture on plagiarism seeks to differentiate between Asian thinking and Western thinking. In this respect, Norris (2007) agreed that educational environment of ESL students, especially from Asian countries emphasizes memorization of text and allows students to copy and paste from other people’s writing which amounts to plagiarism. The same sentiments were shared by Gilmore et al (2010) that connoted that in cultures where ESL students come from such as Italy and Japan, rote learning is highly encouraged and therefore students develop feelings that plagiarism is desirable. Consequently, ESL students find it challenging to study in westernized institutions where plagiarism is not condoned. Since they are used to their culture at home, they often find it hard to produce their own work and to acknowledge other people’s work and hence often become victims of plagiarism.

It is also claimed that ESL students are more likely to be victims of plagiarism due to ignorance of plagiarism rules and conventions, and the fact that plagiarism is not acceptable. Most ESL students do not know what is plagiarism and what is not plagiarism and this causes them to plagiarise unknowingly (Introna and Hayes 2007). Additionally, there is no clarity across learning institutions about what makes up plagiarism and therefore most ESL students are not aware of what they should do to avoid being involved in this awful act (Introna and Hayes 2007). According to Lankamp (2009) ignorance of plagiarism rules and regulations is one of the major reasons of plagiarism by ESL students. Today, plagiarism is considered as a developmental issue and it is more prevalent among ESL students. Lack of knowledge about plagiarism principles is not limited to failure to knowing the right citation or reference format. However, it also involves unawareness of the fact that other people’s work should be cited and acknowledged always when used in individual work (Lankamp 2009). Although some students may be aware of this, what they are often ignorant of is where to cite in their work so that it is clear the text the citation covers. Therefore, how to inset citations elegantly is often a challenge for ESL students as connoted Lankamp (2009) because that have very little or no information about the whole thing.

Norris (2007) insisted that ESL students are mostly involved in academic dishonesty because of ignorance which happens by mistake and not intentionally. Gilmore et al (2010) postulated that often ESL join westernized institutions when they are not aware of conventions and rules that can help then avoid plagiarism. It is possible, for instance, for teachers and professors to assume that ESL students enrolling for higher learning are familiar with plagiarism rules and conventions when actually it is contrary (Gilmore et al 2010). Consequently, they may fail to instruct or guide ESL students on how to avoid plagiarism, and hence most of them end up engaging in academic dishonesty through plagiarism (Gilmore et al 2010). Therefore, ESL students may unintentionally plagiarism because they do not understand how to cite other people’s work while adhering to existing rules and conventions on plagiarism.

Lack of authorial identity is also cited as one of the major contributors of plagiarism by ESL students (Lankamp 2009; Gilmore et al 2010). ESL students plagiarise because they do not know how to write ideas using their own words. Therefore, because they are required to write individual works in the form of assignments, ESL students end up copying and pasting other people’s text which definitively becomes plagiarism (Lankamp 2009). When ESL students are asked by their professors to create originals ideas they are made to plagiarise because they always consider it important to consult secondary sources for assistance. On the same note, Lankamp (2009) argued that ESL students find it extremely difficult to control the authorial voice within then and voices of the sources they use to write individual work. Normally, when ESL students find that their own work is very far from what they are expected to achieve, they consider plagiarism the best strategy to use to present their work (Gilmore et al 2010). Thus, out of desperation due to lack of authorial identity, ESL students commit plagiarism. Many academic institutions in English speaking countries value significantly originality of students in writing their work (Lankamp 2009). Unfortunately, ESL students who are not able represent themselves using own voice are motivated to engage in academic dishonesty. Gilmore et al (2010) also affirmed that inability to read and comprehend text in English due to lack of linguistic skills causes ESL students to plagiarise. Equally, they are likely to experience high level of cognitive load which may force them to represent ideas in the words of other authors, and hence plagiarism.

In conclusion, ESL students are highly vulnerable to plagiarism because of the environment in which they are brought up. Compared with English speaking students, ESL students are more likely to plagiarise because of a different reasons. One of the reasons is that their culture does not recognise plagiarism as an act of academic dishonesty, in stead it encourages students to memorize and copy others peoples work without acknowledging. The second reason is ignorance of conventions and rules on plagiarism which causes ESL students to plagiarise unknowingly. Lastly, ESL students plagiarise because they are not able to write new ideas using their own words. Therefore, lack of proficiency in English language forces them to copy other people’s text leading to plagiarism.

Reference List

Chien, S.C., 2014. Cultural Constructions of Plagiarism in Student Writing: Teachers’ Perceptions and Responses. Research in the Teaching of English, 49(2), p.120.

Gilmore, J., Strickland, D., Timmerman, B., Maher, M. and Feldon, D., 2010. Weeds in the flower garden: An exploration of plagiarism in graduate students’ research proposals and its connection to enculturation, ESL, and contextual factors. International Journal for Educational Integrity, 6(1).

Introna, L. and Hayes, N., 2007. International students and plagiarism detection systems: Detecting plagiarism, copying, or learning?. Student plagiarism in an online world: Problems and solutions, pp.108-122.

Lankamp, R., 2009. ESL Student Plagiarism: Ignorance of the Rules or Authorial Identity Problem?. Journal of Education & Human Development, 3(1).

Norris, R.W., 2007. Dealing with plagiarism at a Japanese university: A foreign teacher’s perspective. The East Asian Learner, 3(1), pp.1-20.

Shei, C., 2005. Plagiarism, Chinese learners and Western convention. Taiwan Journal of TESOL, 2(1), pp.97-113.