Promote Authorship - Prevent Plagiarism - The Higher Education

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					                                              CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
Promote authorship – prevent plagiarism

           James Elander

Collaborators and

                                                     CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH

Gail Pittam, Anglia Ruskin University
Jo Lusher, London Metropolitan University
Pauline Fox, Thames Valley University
Nicky Payne, Middlesex University
Katherine Harrington and Frank Su, Write Now
HEA Psychology Network Departmental Teaching
  Enhancement Fund grant

Authorial identity

                                                                      CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
‘The sense a writer has of themselves as an author,
   and the textual identity they construct in their

             (Pittam et al., in press; see also Abasi et al., 2006)

Psychology students’ views

                                                              CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
‘It seems a bit grand to describe yourself as an
    author ... it’s just not a word that I would associate
    with myself so much unless I wrote a book. I just
    thought of myself as a student writing an essay’
    (First year undergraduate)

Assignments and authorial identity

                                                             CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
‘… we don’t feel we are [authors] most of the time,
  because we’re all writing the same essay …’
  (Second year undergraduate)

‘Now I’m starting to think that we are authors ... it
  might be since we’ve started doing projects as
  well, because it feels like it is your own work …’
  (Second year undergraduate)

   Other obstacles to authorial identity

                                                                     CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
‘I understand that we need backup from some scientific
    research ... but still I can’t help thinking that I am editing
    everything, not putting my idea or opinion ... or
    something new’ (Second year undergraduate)

‘… if we create something, really create something which
  is a really good thing, we tend to get less marks than
  editing something from others’ work. So it’s confusing
  to me, what do markers, lecturers, want us to do, be an
  author or be an editor?’ (Second year undergraduate)

    Student Authorship Questionnaire
    17 items, 6 scales

                                                                    CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
Scale 1: Confidence in Writing
   ‘I enjoy writing in my own words’
   ‘I am confident that when I write ... it will look impressive’

Scale 2: Understanding authorship
   ‘I know what it means to be the author…’
   ‘I know the responsibilities of the author…’

Scale 3: Knowledge to avoid plagiarism
   ‘I know how to provide references …’
   ‘I know how to show which parts were not written by
  More sample items

                                                             CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
Scale 4: Top-down approach to writing
   ‘I begin by thinking about what I want to say…’
   ‘Writing an assignment is all about making an

Scale 5: Bottom-up approach to writing (lower = better)
   ‘Writing an assignment is all about finding material…’
   ‘I begin by looking for material I can include…’

Scale 6: Pragmatic approach to writing (lower = better)
   ‘I don’t have time to put everything in my own words…’
   ‘I get better marks when I use more material from

  Year of study differences

                                                                         CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH


      1st year   2nd year   3rd year   MSc

                                             (Pittam et al., in press)

Flexible intervention with 5 elements

                                                            CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
1.   Definitions and explanations
2.   ‘Authorial decisions’
3.   Examples of student writing
4.   High profile cases of alleged plagiarism
5.   Authorial identity and different assignments

(materials available at

 1. Definitions and explanations

                                                                    CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
Author: “The person who creates a written work, such as a
  book, story, article or the like…”

Authorship: “an explicit way of assigning responsibility and
  giving credit for intellectual work”.

2. ‘Authorial decisions’

                                                          CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
• What the message is
• What secondary material to use
• How much importance or emphasis to put on different
• How to interpret the material
• What words to use to express the ideas
• What conclusions to reach

  A piece of journalistic-style writing

                                                               CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
Eating disorders show how the culture of an affluent society
can damage the health of its most vulnerable members. In
western countries life is very stressful, almost everyone is
dissatisfied with their body, and there is an epidemic of
dieting. When emotionally vulnerable people try to get
some control over their lives, the result can be anorexia or
bulimia, which were once rare disorders but are now
increasingly common. Psychological theory can explain
what is going on in people’s minds, but the problem won’t go
away until there is a change in western values and culture.

What did that author decide?

                                                         CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
To announce the conclusions right at the beginning
  of the piece
To adopt a very bold style
To place emphasis on cultural factors
To present some bald statements without evidence
To use certain words and phrases -
   …epidemic of dieting…
   …emotionally vulnerable people…
   …going on in people’s minds…

  A piece of psychology writing

                                                                   CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
Eating disorders make up a relatively new category of
psychological disorders, and reflect the fact that
psychological or emotional problems can manifest
themselves as severe disturbances in eating behaviour. The
most prevalent of these disorders are anorexia nervosa
(AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN). These are normally
considered as separate disorders, although both are
associated with an obsessive fear of gaining weight and the
individual’s dissatisfaction with their own body shape (as
compared, for example, with media projected ideal images
of body shapes). Prior to the 1960s, both AN and BN were
relatively rare disorders, but have since become
considerably more prevalent in western societies.
                 (From Davey, 2004, Complete Psychology, p. 586)

What did that author decide?

                                                       CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
To begin in a much more measured way
To use a more cautious style
Not to reach such a strong conclusion
To focus more on psychological factors
To use more moderate words and phrases –
   …considerably more prevalent…
   …psychological or emotional problems can
      manifest themselves as…
   …both associated with…

 Part 3. Examples of student writing

                                                              CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
“Bulimia patients typically binge when they encounter
stress and experience negative affect. Patients with
bulimia nervosa are low in self-esteem” (Garner,
Olmstead & Polivy, 1983, p. 1). “Many young women
with an eating disorder come from families that demand
‘perfection’ and extreme self-control but do not allow
expressions of warmth or conflict” (Rosman & Baker,
1978, p. 1). “With regard to bulimia, there may be a
deficiency in the neurotransmitter serotin, which plays a
role in both mood regulation and appetite” (Hilgard’s
Introduction to Psychology, p. 1).

 Another example: an improvement?

                                                                       CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
Bulimia has been associated with stress and negative emotional
states, and Garner et al (1983) claimed that many patients with
bulimia have low self-esteem. Family factors may also be important,
especially in terms of the demands they may place on young women
and the opportunities they provide for expressing emotions. For
example, demanding perfection and self control, but not allowing
expressions of warmth or conflict, were said to characterise the
families of many young women with eating disorders (Rosman &
Baker, 1978). There is also evidence that neurophysiological factors
are important mechanisms in the development of eating disorders.
For example, deficiencies in serotonin, which regulates both mood
and appetite, may be part of the cause of bulimia (Hilgard, 1999).

Part 4. Cases of alleged plagiarism

                                                        CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
Dan Brown accused of plagiarising a previous book
  in The Da Vinci Code

Tony Blair’s ‘Dodgy Dossier’ on Iraq’s WMD

The plagiarism expert

The case of Raj Persaud

From the government’s dossier

                                                                                           CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
 Saddam appointed Sabir 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Duri as head during the 1991 Gulf War. After
 the Gulf War he was replaced by Wafiq Jasim al-Samarrai.
 After Samarrai, Muhammad Nimah al-Tikriti headed Al-Istikhbarat al-Askariyya in
 early 1992 then in late 1992 Fanar Zibin Hassan al-Tikriti was appointed to this post.
 These shifting appointments are part of Saddam's policy of balancing security
 positions. By constantly shifting the directors of these agencies, no one can establish
 a base in a security organisation for a substantial period of time. No one becomes
 powerful enough to challenge the President.

 (Government dossier, page 13, published Jan 2003)


    From a previous PhD thesis

                                                                                            CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
Saddam appointed Sabir ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Duri(80) as head of Military Intelligence during
the 1991 Gulf War.(81) After the Gulf War he was replaced by Wafiq Jasim al-
After Samarrai, Muhammad Nimah al-Tikriti(83) headed Military Intelligence in early
1992(84) then in late 1992 Fanar Zibin Hassan al-Tikriti was appointed to this post.(85)
While Fanar is from Tikrit, both Sabir al-Duri and Samarrai are non-Tikriti Sunni
Muslims, as their last names suggest.
Another source indicates that Samarrai was replaced by Khalid Salih al-Juburi,(86)
demonstrating how another non-Tikriti, but from the tribal alliance that traditionally
support the regime holds top security positions in Iraq.(87)
These shifting appointments are part of Saddam’s policy of balancing security positions
between Tikritis and non-Tikritis, in the belief that the two factions would not unite to
overthrow him. Not only that, but by constantly shifting the directors of these agencies,
no one can establish a base in a security organization for a substantial period of time,
that would challenge the President.(88)

(al-Marashi document: Section: "MILITARY INTELLIGENCE”, published Sept 2002)

Raj Persaud’s explanation

                                                            CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
‘I am happy to apologise for this error, which
    occurred whereby when I cut and pasted the
    original copy, the references at the end were
    inadvertently omitted. We only became aware of
    the error after publication’
‘He [Persaud] said he didn’t see the final version
    before it goes to press, and said the subeditors
    must have taken out the quotation marks and
    citation at the bottom’
                                  (Guardian, 7-11-05)

The verdict

                                                                  CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
‘[Persaud] admitted plagiarism but denied claims he had been
   dishonest …’ (Guardian, 20-6-08)
‘He [Persaud] told the GMC: “I realise I should have been much
   more careful when I started writing the book. At the time,
   given the stress I was under, given the deadlines and my
   other work, I thought I was adequately attributing work”’
   (Times, 21-6-08)
“[Persaud] brought his profession into disrepute by cutting and
   pasting experts’ papers into his articles and a book, the
   General Medical Council found yesterday” (Guardian, 20-6-

5. Authorial identity and student

                                                         CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
•   Essays
•   Critical reviews
•   Problem-based assignments
•   Dissertations

• Authorial checklist on completing assignments

Before-and-after evaluation: 279 students

                                                             CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
175 (63%) London Metropolitan University
61 (22%) Thames Valley University
43 (15%) Middlesex University

111 (40%) 1st year       Delivered in:
71 (25%) 2nd year        •Lectures & small groups
75 (27%) 3rd year
                         Focusing on:
22 (8%) MSc
                         •Research project reports

SAQ scores before and after intervention

                                                                 CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH

Mean score

             3.5                                Understanding
              3                                 Top-down
             2.5                                Pragmatic

                   Before   After

                                    (Elander et al., in press)

Interaction of intervention and year

                                                          CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
of study: understanding authorship

Mean score

                                               Ist year
              4                                2nd year
                                               3rd year

                   Before   After

Interaction of intervention and year
of study: knowledge to avoid

                                                           CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH

Mean score

                                                Ist year
                                                2nd year
                                                3rd year

                   Before   After

Interaction of intervention and year
of study: pragmatic approach to

                                                            CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
Mean score

                                                 Ist year
             2.5                                 2nd year
                                                 3rd year

                   Before   After

 ‘The session on authorship helped

                                                          CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
 me to …’
‘… understand how to avoid plagiarism’
                           86% agree/strongly agree
‘… write better psychology assignments’
                           66% agree/strongly agree
‘… not need advice or support about writing…’
                           52% agree/strongly agree
‘… enjoy writing psychology assignments’
                           39% agree/strongly agree

But …

                                                           CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
• No reduction in numbers referred to disciplinary
  panels for plagiarism

• And only non-significant reductions in lecturers’
  perceptions of students’ plagiarism-related

Some conclusions

                                                        CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
• Plagiarism prevention should be linked with
  positive support for student writing
• Some evidence of improvements in authorial
  identity – most among first year students
• But no apparent impact on serious cases of
• More research needed on authorial identity
• This approach could be adapted for other


                                                                      CENTRE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
Abasi, A.R., Akbari, N. & Graves, B. (2006). Discourse
    appropriation, construction of identities, and the complex
    issue of plagiarism: ESL students writing in graduate school.
    Journal of Second Language Writing, 15 (2), 102-117.
Elander, J., Pittam, G., Lusher, J., Fox, P. & Payne, N. (in
    press). Evaluation of an intervention to help students avoid
    unintentional plagiarism by improving their authorial identity.
    Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education.
Pittam, G., Elander, J., Lusher, J., Fox, P. & Payne, N. (in
    press). Student beliefs and attitudes about authorial identity
    in academic writing. Studies in Higher Education.
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