Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Plagiarism and ethnocentrism

Daniel E. Martin, Culture and unethical conduct: Understanding the impact of individualism and
collectivism on actual plagiarism

Martin used Turnitin to detect plagiarism, defined as 30 words in sequence, along with measures of individualism and collectivism. Among the findings: length of stay in the US decreased collectivism in Asian students.

From the discussion:
While the literature is full of explanations for why Asians and collectivists are more prone to plagiarize given their belief in sharing and the educational norms of rote learning and recall, there are few explanations as to why individualists are more likely to plagiarize. Yet, we have now a consistent stream of findings, in the US and UK, using multiple methods of research – both self report and in our case, actual plagiarism, which indicates that individualists are more likely to plagiarize. Plagiarism is clearly considered unethical conduct according to modern western thinking and is described as such in most universities. Yet, as many ways as we analyze our data, we find that individualists plagiarize more than collectivists. (citations omitted)
And yet, from the conclusion:
Business schools need to provide clear expectations and training to ensure all students develop skills to avoid plagiarism, increase international students understanding of cultural norms and ease cross-cultural adjustment. Baron and Strout-Drapez (2001) surveyed 123 U.S. universities and found adjusting to a new educational and library system was a significant challenge faced by international students. International students are placed in stressful environments that challenge their educational norms, and expected to perform with no new cultural tools ensuring a reliance tactics that might be accepted by their home culture, but not the host culture. Similar to expatriate training, the differences in systems and behavior should be linked to cultural norm differences, with experiential library workshops in avoiding plagiarism. Equal weight should be placed on faculty education, as despite research evidence to the contrary, the stereotype persists that Asian students plagiarize more often than their mainstream American peers. The findings of the current study should be included in faculty orientation programs so that faculty can be aware of potential stereotypes. (citations omitted)
Notice how that first recommendation ignores the finding that acculturation to Western individualism increases cheating? Acculturation appears to be part of the problem, not part of the solution. Even in recognizing the mistakes of the Western-favorable hypothesis that it's those Eastern collectivists who are more inclined to cheat, the article replicates them. But when students who think they’re only in it for themselves also think the material is unimportant to them, how could we expect low rates of cheating?

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