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New Web site puts a spotlight on academic integrity

In her speech the day she was named president of the University, Mary Sue Coleman expressed the importance of integrity on campus: °The integrity of the University is everywhere. It's in the classroom, it's in the research, it's in the athletic program. It's everywhere."

This quote sums up the goal of the new Web site, developed as a collaboration between the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) and units within the University Library to educate the U-M community about academic integrity in the classroom.

°There has been a general concern across universities that academic integrity needs more attention," says Deborah Meizlish, program manager for CRLT. °With the technological changes over the last eight to 10 years, plagiarism and cheating, which have always existed, are now taking place in different forms and with more ease."

Esrold Nurse, LS&A assistant dean for student academic affairs, says the Internet is creating a new obstacle in the fight against plagiarism.

°Plagiarism has always occupied a place among the cheating elite," he says. °The easy access to materials, such as paper mills, on the Internet has only exacerbated the problem."

Faculty visiting the new Web site will find an array of resources. °It gives them concrete information to use with students to teach about academic integrityőparticularly regarding plagiarism," Meizlish says. °It provides a link to resources that can help identify plagiarized material. It links them to the rules and regulations of U-M schools and colleges to deal with violations of academic integrity."

Under the link on preventing cheating and plagiarism, the site says, °In many cases, the best strategies for prevention are also the best practices for teaching and pedagogy." Included is a list of resources for teaching about plagiarism, with links to Purdue University and Indiana University sites among others, along with specific tactics faculty members can utilize to decrease the likelihood their students will plagiarize. These strategies aim to stop plagiarism and other academic integrity breaches from happening in the first place.

Despite the best efforts of faculty members, a small percentage of students may still endeavor to cheat, experts say. Clicking on the °detecting problems" link puts a variety of methods to spot cheaters at faculty members' fingertips, including noticeable signals to look for different types of plagiarism that exist.

The site is designed to allow faculty °to teach the way they want, while helping lessen the likelihood students will violate academic integrity," Meizlish says.

To help students avoid plagiarizing, the site provides procedures to follow while researching, information about sources from the Web and a guide to citing sources. Faculty members are encouraged to promote the resources the site has to offer to their students, Meizlish says.

If students are found cheating, the site provides faculty and students with easy access to U-M rules and procedures concerning violations of academic integrity.

Sanctions for offenses may vary across schools. In LS&A, Nurse says, sanctions include a letter of reprimand, community service, disciplinary probation, failing the assignment or failing the class. Students caught a second time face suspension or expulsion from the University.

Other features of the Web site include three perspectives on plagiarism, written by Janice Newton, professor of political science at York University; Robert Harris, author of °The Plagiarism Handbook"; and Sharon Myers, professor at Texas Tech University. These essays attempt to explain the motivation behind students' efforts to plagiarize.

While all sources agree plagiarism is a problem, there are no hard statistics to show just how widespread it is. °The national data on whether cheating is on the rise is mixed," Nurse says.

Another option for faculty members faced with plagiarism is to visit the Sweetland Writing Center. °Often, when an instructor knows that portions of a paper have been plagiarized, he or she will spend more time searching for the source of the plagiarized text than the student spent writing the paper," says Caroline Eisner, associate director of Sweetland.

Sweetland can help faculty locate plagiarized material and develop assignments designed to prevent plagiarism, Eisner says.

The CRLT Web site initially was created as a supplement to a workshop on academic integrity, sponsored by CRLT and units within the library this winter. °The initial efforts were to support these seminars," Meizlish says. °Then we spent the summer creating a more substantial Web site that could be released more broadly to the University."

To view the Web site, go to:

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