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Cultural Issues (Student)

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Student Resources esources > Understanding Plagiarism > Cultural Issues and Plagiarism




Cultural Issues and Plagiarism


Any discussion of plagiarism needs to recognize that the framework under which "plagiarism" is conceived in American academia is the product of a particular cultural and institutional history and not one that is universally shared. Notably, this framework depends on a notion of student work as intellectual property--that is to say, work valued as the original scholarly contribution of an identifiably autonomous author--that may clash with other frameworks for understanding the function of student writing.  It may be too simple to describe this as a difference between "western" and "non-western" cultural values. Nevertheless, students who have grown up in a non-U.S. academic context may have different ideas of individual ownership and property rights, or for whom the academic construct of a scholar or researcher owning words and ideas is unnatural.  With the recent instances of plagiarism detected not only in student papers, but in master's theses and doctoral dissertations, these issues are of great concern on college campuses today.


To learn more about the cultural issues involved in intellectual property and attribution, please visit the resources below.






Ranked Choices (in order of relevance)


This article digs deep into the cultural ramification of the western scientific notion of plagiarism and its impact on nonwestern scientists.  Using a 1996 Science article about scientific misconduct among Chinese researchers,  the article explores the tensions caused by nonwestern researchers trying to adhere to western academic publishing conventions.  The article also examines how globalization and technology are challenging Western concepts of intellectual property.


A thoughtful review of current literature on the cultural raminifications of plagiarism as it plays out academia as the tension of western and nonwestern views of ownership, respect, and copyright. Of particular value is the examination of the reasons for the rise of plagiarism among international students.


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Rebecca Moore Howard, a noted plagiarism scholar, has put together a collection of bibliographies on key issues in plagiarism scholarship. This bibliography is on the intercultural issues of plagiarism.  For a complete list of her plagiarism bibliographies, see the Plagiarism Scholarship section.


This article uses qualitative interview methodology to explore gaps in the understanding of plagiarism between instructors and ESL writers. Though writing is a socially situated endeavor, instructors are sometimes biased against non-native writers due to the perception that they are more likely to plagiarize. Students may misunderstand the American convention of plagiarism or some may even understand the concept yet choose to plagiarize anyway.


  • Staying out of trouble: Apparent plagiarism and academic survival.  By: Currie, Pat.  Journal of Second Language Writing, Volume 7, Number 1, January 1998, pp. 1-18.
Textual borrowing by second language students in academic settings has traditionally been viewed as an intentional violation of Western norms and practices. As we have learned from recent discussions, however, the issue is not that simple, but fraught with complexities. In order to understand the degree of complexity, it is worthwhile to examine one instance of such borrowing. This paper explores the apparent plagiarism of one second language student writer in a university course. It considers her behavior in relation to the context of her course, the demands of her task, her developing English language skills, and her general learning processes (Article Abstract).







Comments (3)

Anonymous said

at 4:46 pm on May 30, 2007

I plan to take a crack at this section (and the parallel one for teachers) over the next few days, to address a few things that I think are worth clarifying:

1) the very different premises behind notions of "plagiarism" and "copyright infringement," and the consequences of the cultural framework that regards student output as intellectual property (as opposed to, say, intellectual exercise, a tool for retentions, or an opportunity for social networking);

2) What we mean by the West/rest distinction, since I don't think it holds up particularly well (i.e., there ARE non-Western cultural taboos on plagiarism; there ARE knowledge communities within the "West" that challenge the model of autonomous authorship, e.g., folk culture, wiki writing, mash-ups and other forms of sampling.

3) To provide a more thorough survey of some of the literature that is out there on cultural and situational forces that might produce different conceptions or practices of producing original/borrowed work, including some of the work pointed to in this recent Inside Higher Ed article at http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2007/05/24/cheating

Anonymous said

at 7:10 pm on May 31, 2007

seems like this section targets education researchers who want to learn about recent literature, not the international students who want to informally understand the cultural differences on plagiarism

Anonymous said

at 7:21 pm on May 31, 2007

This section should be more like "How students plagiarize at GW"

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