When I think of the moral, ethical and legal issues we are facing the 8th, combined with the 4th and 7th, commandment of the Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics written by Arlene Rinaldi are the ones that I reinforce almost daily. 

  1. Thou shalt not use a computer to harm other people.
  2. Thou shalt not interfere with other people’s computer work.
  3. Thou shalt not snoop around in other people’s files.
  4. Thou shalt not use a computer to steal.
  5. Thou shalt not use a computer to bear false witness.
  6. Thou shalt not use or copy software for which you have not paid.
  7. Thou shalt not use other people’s computer resources without authorization.
  8. Thou shalt not appropriate other people’s intellectual output.
  9. Thou shalt think about the social consequences of the program you write.
  10. Thou shalt use a computer in ways that show consideration and respect.

Being an English as an Additional Language (EAL) teacher and being a non-native English speaker, I can see how easy it is to fall into the trap of plagiarism. Texas A&M defines plagiarism as “the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit”. Other people’s words often appear in our students’ work. Being a non-native English speaker, I know that many times plagiarism is not caused by bad intention. Not being a fluent speaker, forces students to “borrow” other people’s words since they feel they cannot say the same idea any better. According to Bruce Dancik and Donald Samulack, the “unintentional plagiarism is a necessity” that helps non-native English speakers express themselves. 

As my classmate, Laurie Ellis mentioned in her content catalyst, educators play a vital role in teaching students to be ethical and responsible learners. Christopher McGilvery in the article called Promoting Responsible and Ethical Digital Citizens highlights the importance of always giving credit to the original source in order to avoid plagiarism. But in order for our students to know the severity of plagiarism we need to provide them with tools to be able to acquire “writing with integrity” (Candace Schaefer – University of Texas). Candace Schaefer describes three forms of responses, such as citing, paraphrasing, summarizing with paraphrasing being viewed as the most dangerous form of writing.

I do agree with McGilvery and Shaefer regarding the importance of teaching our students the various steps of becoming a responsible and ethical learner and writer. I tried to summarize the major steps:

  • Start early and come up with a detailed plan
  • Take accurate notes when researching a topic and cite correctly
  • Understand your topic and add value to it by sharing own ideas
  • Practice retelling the content by using your own words
  • Proofread
  • Use quotations to give credit
  • Give credit when paraphrasing as well
  • Use a plagiarism checker to avoid making this ethical, moral and legal mistake
  • Include reference page
  • Ask your teacher/professor for advice and guidance

As an EAL teacher, I also think we often misjudge our students’ level of language proficiency and just because someone “sounds” fluent we assume their academic language is at a high level as well. Sometimes the very high expectations do force students to fall into the trap of plagiarizing to prove themselves to our society.

Photo Credit: <a href=””>Paris Malone</a> Flickr via <a href=””>Compfight</a> <a href=””>cc</a>

Thanks for stopping by!

10 thoughts on “Plagiarism

  1. Melinda, thanks for the post.You wrote exactly what I was thinking the other night during our class. I totally agree with you when you say that many of our EAL students do not have bad intentions when they plagiarize on an assignment or project. I know they often want to do well on an assignments or simply fit in with the rest of their classmates.

    I can’t relate to the feeling of having these high expectations placed on you when you are starting to learn a new language. I know that would be extremely stressful and plagiarizing is one way to deal with this stress.

    I know that I’ve been guilty of placing high expectations on EAL students due to their high level of oral language. I’ve caught myself making assumptions at various times in my career. Your post is another good reminder to be empathetic to those who are learning a new language.

    Thanks for the read.

  2. Great topic for this week’s debate Melinda!! I could not agree more and as an English teacher, I often feel the pain of plagiarism and the sick feeling in my stomach I get when I catch a student. It is never fun. I also try to install strong morals in my students and teach them how to avoid plagiarism but there are still always a couple of students that try and get away with it. But like you and Trevor said, EAL students often aren’t doing it with malice or intention, just simply as a way to learn and do well. It is definitely a learning opportunity and I always treat it as such, especially with EAL students. They only want to improve, so I think it’s important to allow them the opportunity to do better and try again.
    As an EAL teacher, I’m curious what your process is if you catch one of your students plagiarising? Maybe I can apply some of your practices with my own students! Again, great subject and a well thought out post! Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • Hi Shelby,

      Thank you for your comment. My situation is different from a classroom teacher’s, since I do not mark my students’ work. I use a report card insert where I only show their growth. So, there is really no need to plagiarize because there’s nothing to lose. When I support the classroom teachers and I do editing with my EAL students, I know immediately when they plagiarize. I usually pull them aside and tell them that I understand why they borrowed someone else’s words, but it is not ok. So, I work with them to say the same idea using their own words. I think they need to be taught how to paraphrase. Incorporating peer editing with native speakers can be a helpful exercise to help EAL students find the right words. I think the first step towards avoiding plagiarism is building vocabulary.

      Thank you,

  3. Thanks for the excellent post Melinda, I see the exact same thing for new french language learners in my school. Using existing sentence structures is how most students learn a new language. The fear of making mistakes the desire to become proficient like their peers brings about large amounts of pressure for these students. Experimenting with language is a risk that many of my students don’t want to take. Coming from areas of the world where making mistakes and taking risks in the classroom is met with physical violence, there is much work to be done to help many of my new language learners in feeling the security of being themselves and taking risks in a secure and productive environment. Plagiarism seem often to be the easy way out in the short term, but finishes by being very detrimental to a students development in the long term. Thanks for the thoughtful post!

    • Great point, Daniel! When I started learning English, as you mentioned, I was memorizing expressions, sentences, etc. You need to reach a certain level of fluency to be able to play around with the words and express your ideas at a more advanced level.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  4. Pingback: Teacher Ethics and Plagiarism – The Secret Life Of a High School Teacher

  5. Pingback: Ethical and Legal Issues In Education | Trevor Kerr

  6. great post … I know I have struggled with a few of those commandments. I have talked with out EAL teach at my school and this has been a huge deal with the EAL students. I think it’s partially because teachers are not adjusting projects such as adding in an oral report or something like that (non EAL students could use this too). Need to set kids up for positive experiences. Really like the plan you shared.

    • Thank you Dean for your comment and sharing your thoughts. Oral reports are really great. I think we need to put more thought and effort into adaptations.

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