Both academic literature and the general media widely acknowledge the growing problem of student plagiarism in the assessment of university learning. While plagiarism is seen to have many causes and to take many forms (see, for example, Park, 2003), there is general agreement that issues associated with correct referencing of quotations and paraphrasing are a significant problem for many students and their academic instructors (Allan et al., 2005; Brimble and Stevenson-Clarke, 2005; de Lambert et al., 2006; McGowan, 2005; Scanlan, 2003; Wilhoit, 1994). This problem has been exacerbated in recent years as students increasingly utilise material from internet-based sources within assignments (see, for example, Allan et al., 2005; Szabo and Underwood, 2004). Studies have shown that students do not perceive the same principles of ownership applying to webbased sources as conventional published materials (Baruchson-Arbib and Yaari, 2004; Scanlon, 2003), and thus may not appreciate the same need to reference downloaded Accounting Education: an international journal
Vol. 17, No. 3, 273–290, September 2008
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0963-9284 Print/1468-4489 Online/08/030273–18 # 2008 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/09639280701612168
material. In addition, the rules for referencing internet-based material can be quite complex, leading to confusion amongst students regarding both the need for, and the nature of, proper referencing application to web-based sources (Baruchson-Arbib and Yaari, 2004).
While students are threatened with ‘punishment’ if plagiarism is detected, the literature suggests that an educative approach is often a more appropriate preventative tool (Allan et al., 2005; Baruchson-Arbib and Yaari, 2004; Brimble and Stevenson-Clarke, 2005; de Lambert et al., 2006; Scanlon, 2003). There is thus a need for academic instructors to provide opportunities to educate students regarding appropriate referencing conventions.
Most approaches to teaching referencing focus on providing students with detailed guidelines illustrating correct referencing formats for various scenarios (see, for example, Allan et al., 2005). Referencing is often taught within a generic communications course, rather than within a discipline-specific subject. Students are then expected to utilise their general knowledge of referencing in their future studies. Alternatively, students are provided with, or directed to, written referencing materials which they are then required to utilise when writing essays or other assignments in their courses. While such efforts may seem sufficient, it appears, given the widespread concern in the academic literature about ongoing student plagiarism, that such a passive approach to teaching referencing fails either to instil in students a sufficient appreciation of the importance of correct referencing or to give them sufficient understanding of the rules involved (Wilhoit, 1994: see also the findings of Brimble and Stevenson-Clarke, 2005; de Lambert et al., 2006; Marsden et al., 2005). The expectation that referencing material does not need to be formally re-taught in later subjects also ignores the widely held cognitive viewpoint that learning requires repetition and reinforcement if it is to be deeply understood and effectively incorporated into long-term memory (see, for example, Willingham, 2004). It also overlooks the ‘concept of “active learning” which proposes that genuine understanding results not from simple exposure to new information but from the learner’s practical engagement with it’ (McGowan, 2005, p. 3). It thus seems that more proactive tools for teaching referencing are required.
While there exists a myriad of approaches to teaching students how to acknowledge sources in written material, academics know that students give attention primarily to: (a)...
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