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Conflict Resolution Students and Plagarism

From Dr. John Windmueller’s blog.

I would love to report that undergraduate and graduate students in conflict resolution never resort to plagiarism, but unfortunately experience tells me otherwise.

Cheating at school work isn’t new, but plagiarism seems to be on the rise in academia, and here’s where I put the blame: 1. The internet has made plagiarism exponentially easier. 2. For reasons not entirely clear to me, it’s common to find undergraduate students who enter college with very little experience using and citing sources in non-fiction essays. When I was younger, I didn’t have to walk fifteen miles to school every day, through terrible blizzards, uphill, both ways. But I do remember having to complete countless “research papers” when growing up, and apparently that’s no longer the norm. 3. More and more students are working part or full-time during their studies, and in the process they can find themselves in some nasty time and work crunches where plagiarism might seem the only option for getting everything done on time.

Of course, none of that excuses plagiarism, but for me it makes the bad decision more understandable, and I’ve usually found that blanket vilification is rarely a sensible, accurate, or constructive way to come at understanding human behavior.

Here’s the language about plagiarism I put in all my syllabi: Academic Honesty Plagiarism is a serious offense, and all written work for this course should include appropriate citations in APA format. If you are unsure about how to cite a direct quotation or concept from course or outside readings, then ask for help. “I wasn’t sure how to cite a source, so I left out the reference,” is not an acceptable defense for plagiarism. If you are caught plagiarizing in an assignment, then you will receive a failing grade for the work. Egregious or any repeat plagiarism will be grounds for failing the course as a whole.

Alas, the passage does not magically wholly prevent plagiarism. However, following the conflict resolution principle of “front-end loading the process,” by setting out clear groundrules and expectations, it has helped when the issue has, regrettably, come up.

For conflict resolution students who might be teetering on the edge of making a Very Bad Decision about plagiarism, let me offer these additional tidbits: 1. Faculty are better than you expect at recognizing sudden shifts in writing style.

2. Conflict resolution is a relatively young field with a still-manageable body of scholarly material. Sure, there will be substantive articles and texts faculty haven’t yet read, but this is a particularly poor field in which to assume that you’ve found some obscure source material to poach that your prof won’t recognize. Odds are we’ll know the material. We’ll probably even personally know the author. We probably could even tell you embarrassing drinking stories about the author who’s work you’re nabbing, except that they could also probably also tell the same sorts of stories about us, so we won’t go there. The field may be enjoying all sorts of wonderful growth, but it’s still a small, small conflict resolution world.

3. The cost of plagiarism usually doesn’t end with failing the assignment. You’ve just burned all your bridges when it comes to mentoring and recommendation from that professor and possibly from the entire department. Your future work will come under additional scrutiny. The road to redemption in the wake of plagiarism isn’t pretty.

Punchline: Plagiarism is riskier and costlier than students realize. If you happen to be a CR student, don’t do it. Ever. Please. Thanks.


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