University of South Alabama (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2010 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Pages: 7182-7187
ISBN: 978-84-614-2439-9
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 3rd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 15-17 November, 2010
Location: Madrid, Spain
With the rise of web-based information technologies in the college classroom over the past ten years, it has become more important than ever for educational institutions to match students’ nearly unlimited digital access to textual sources with our own digital countermeasures, as represented by a number of sophisticated plagiarism detection services now available, such as,, iThenticate, or LexisNexusCopyGuard. The internet has become indispensable in college instruction, across all of the disciplines, but the improper appropriation or even outright theft of sources has also never been easier, and thus it is incumbent on institutions to protect themselves and ensure the proper instruction and development of students by having their own digital countermeasures in place to ensure the legitimate use of sources in writing and research projects, so that students become responsible, effective members of the University community and beyond.

As this brief sketch suggests, however, such a call to arms implies an inherently antagonistic relationship between teachers and students, and the employment of plagiarism detection devices presupposes a hermeneutic of suspicion: We are out to catch cheating students with powerful, web-based applications that will deliver irrefutable proof of academic dishonesty in that cardinal intellectual crime, plagiarism. Such an emphasis reproduces the damaging, oppositional relation criticized so effectively by Paulo Freire in his now-classic critique of “Banking” education. The teacher then becomes part of what Freire called the “paternalistic social action apparatus” and, in projecting a false, self-protective authority, misses an opportunity to foster proper resource use, to help students learn how to avoid plagiarism, and perhaps further, to teach them to use sources effectively, even artfully.

However, if we take that most unlikely of collaborative resources, the plagiarism detection device, and explore its true pedagogical utility by using it as a student-centered source management tool, we can better serve our educational goals and build a better, more responsible intellectual community. When used in a student-centered way, to help students learn to use sources legitimately, fairly, and effectively, these devices become tools to prevent plagiarism, rather than punitive, theft-detection devices utilized only after the fact. When we recognize that these services do not identify plagiarism but rather textual matches, and if we bring students into the reading and interpretation of their own text-use practices by making their originality reports available to them in the writing process, we open up the transformation of plagiarism detection devices into powerful teaching tools. Our goal, after all, should be to educate students in the better use and management of external textual sources. We require them to use these sources, so we should be concerned that we do not mystify such uses under the vague yet absolute-sounding threat of “plagiarism.” When used openly and collaboratively, what we call plagiarism detection devices can actually dispel such fears and act to empower students rather than police them, to improve the collaborative interchange between teacher and student, rather than serve as another contributing factor to a falsely one-sided pedagogical dialectic.
Plagiarism-detection technology, collaborative pedagogy