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ESL students and plagiarism


The rise in the use of the Internet as a source of research material has no doubt led to an increase in plagiarism, (and not only among ESL students.) Some web sites even offer to provide students with complete essays or reports on a particular topic. While most students will be aware that lifting a whole essay is academically and intellectually dishonest, there is no such consensus on the cutting and pasting of smaller chunks of text - up to paragraph level. It is important that mainstream teachers understand the reasons why this practice may be widespread among the ESL students in their classes.

Why do ESL students plagiarize?

In my experience, plagiarism by ESL students is rarely as a result of laziness or the inability to think for themselves. If they find part of a text that conveys the information that they wish to convey or expresses the idea that they wish to express, it is not surprising that many will simply copy the passage into their own work. Some of them do not have good enough English to express themselves to their own satisfaction in their own words; or they feel they haven't been given enough time to do so. Others may believe that it is showing respect to the author if they use his or her words without changing them. Many of them have no idea that plagiarism will be regarded by most of their teachers as a kind of cheating.

What can be done to help ESL students avoid plagiarism?

There are several approaches that may help to reduce the incidence of plagiarism:

Frankfurt International School: Art and artists. (Click to see at full size.)