Plagiarism Education in Science: The Effect of Instruction on Student Attitudes

Kristen Welsh-Unwala


In scientific publications, plagiarism is an ethical breach that can lead to article retractions and damage the reputations of scientists. In academia, when students begin their scientific careers and are learning the norms of scientific research, teaching the concepts of plagiarism is critical. However, a lack of clarity exists regarding the nuances of plagiarism and how universities should address instances of plagiarism committed by students. This study was conducted at the University of The Bahamas with students of scientific research methods classes to assess the effectiveness of plagiarism instruction on student attitudes. Over five semesters, a total of 110 students attended a lesson on plagiarism and completed at-home assignments to support the information learned in class. Students were provided questionnaires, which were administered before and after the plagiarism class, to assess their understanding, attitudes, and opinions regarding plagiarism at the University. Following the class, students indicated a greater understanding of plagiarism, more agreement with strict punishments for plagiarism, and less agreement on the acceptability of reusing past assignments. Students also reported a lack of clarity of the University policy on plagiarism. These results suggest that the university would benefit from providing additional learning opportunities pertaining to plagiarism, as well as a revision of the plagiarism policy, which could assist students as they embark on their scientific careers.


plagiarism; academic misconduct; science; classroom instruction; student attitudes; ethical aspects of information use

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