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Plagiarism as a cross-cultural phenomenon

Many faculty address potential plagiarism with only a brief mention, believing that students understand and know how to avoid it. In fact, the issue is complex and dynamic. While the ready access of Internet material has promoted copying without attribution, the diversity of students and faculty on American campuses who represent varied cultural, linguistic, and educational backgrounds also influences documentation conceptualization and practice. University students in China (PRC), Latvia, Lithuania, and the United States were surveyed to see how they regarded the concept of plagiarism and how their perception matched actual academic practices. The results suggest that plagiarism may be attributed to multiple variables, including historical, political, economic, social, pedagogical, and technological influences. Additional anecdotal evidence was collected. In one example, citing a half-century of Soviet rule in the Baltic States which had done away with the concept of personal property, students often failed to acknowledge the value of intellectual property, an especially abstract notion. Plagiarism has often been an outgrowth of differences in understanding. Therefore, implications include the need for increased awareness and knowledge by faculty and students provided through pedagogical support for discipline-specific instruction.

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