Students Fight Accidental Plagiarism

BY ALICE BIDETTI

A former visiting student at JCU (who wishes to remain anonymous and will be called Tom for the sake of comprehension) returned home, after doing good for an entire course, only to nd out he had failed the course due to plagiarism. When he asked about the grade, Tom was told that he had improperly cited a source in his nal paper, an error which compromised the course altogether. As Tom is a May 2017 expected graduate, failing a class would delay the process, potentially costing him additional time and thousands of dollars.

Of the many obstacles and fears that college students are on the look out for, plagiarism is the one that hides waiting for them in the dark. Like Tom, hundreds of other students su er great distress and frustration because of the P word. Often, students fall into the trap because of honest mistake, as they don’t have external tools to check the citing protocol – the same tools professors employs to check students’ works. Tired of this, JCU students are reacting, taking the problem in their own hands and coming up with initiatives to ght it. Francesco Collacciani, current JCU student, developed an app called GPA Paper, to specifically help students to format errors that will come back to bite you after you’ve handled in the paper. “Papers shouldn’t be obstacles,” says Francesco, commenting on the disorientingsetof rulesforacademicwritings,“butasthingslooknow,theyare.”

Tom’s mistake was to cite a book he had accessed through a website instead of citing the website directly. In the academic lingo, this would translate into “citation of indirect sources,” one of the big elephants in the room when it comes to MLA guidelines. It would appear, in fact, that everyone approaches this type of citation di erently, from those who skip it altogether – rumor has it that MLA does not require you to cite indirect sources – to those who, like Tom’s professor, support it wholeheartedly. Referencing indirect sources falls into the same broth as citing one’s own work, or paraphrasing, and each member of student body and faculty has a di erent perception of what exactly constitutes plagiarism and what does not. Besides lacking clear and uniform criteria for MLA citing, what complicates the life of a paper-writing student is being negated access to online checkers.

“I believe students’ performance should be evaluated with the same tools available to them,” states JCU student Anna. If professors use online databases to check for plagiarism, in fact, students either have poor access to or can’t a ord them. Grammarly, Turnitin, and many other professional online systems demand a monthly subscription of $30 minimum. While institutions and educators might have a free access, students are denied discounts or a ordable prices.

The extremely pricy requests of these systems are what drove the creator of GPA Paper to come up with an app that is rst and foremost student-oriented. “I didn’t see it as a business, I just thought it was a good initiative to help students” tells Francesco, who asks for 4.99 € for unlimited submissions of a paper. He’s also working on discounts for students who submit multiple papers at once. “The university’s policy against plagiarism is fair, but they should give students some tools to prevent accidents as it has happened in the past.”

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