Introduction and Rationale
Plagiarism is a commonplace concern in both academic and professional contexts. Media coverage in recent years provides examples of prominent writers (Jaquith, 2009; Marshall, 2009) and educators (Associated Press, 2009; Jaschik, 2009; Stripling, 2008) whose work has been accused of plagiarism. These reports are not kind to the accused plagiarists, and feedback from readers online suggests that the general public is likewise offended by plagiarist acts. It is evident that plagiarism is considered egregious behavior by the North American public. This societal aversion to plagiarism is especially strong in academic communities. For example, many English-medium universities have strict anti-plagiarism policies that carry penalties as severe as institutional expulsion. Even so, student understanding regarding plagiarism and writing citation is not always clear (Wolfersberger, 2007). Such has been my own experience as a university instructor and writing teacher.
Over the past several years I have worked as a university writing instructor: first as a part-time graduate student, and then as a full-time program coordinator and teacher trainer. During that time, I have witnessed a range of issues related to plagiarism in student work. Although I have encountered the occasional case of intentional plagiarism, the majority of plagiarism in university writing courses results from a misunderstanding of citation standards or from a lack of language skills. Both types of inadvertent plagiarism can happen to native English-speaking (NES) and English as a Second Language (ESL) students alike (see Johns and Mayes, 1990; Mateos, Martin, Villalon, & Luna, 2008; Shi, 2004 and Wheeler, 2008); however, research suggests that second language writers are more likely to encounter difficulties with unintentional plagiarism due to limited cultural and linguistic exposure (see Keck, 2006 and Yu, 2008).
Because much of my university teaching has been with ESL students, I am particularly interested in studying how researchers, administrators, and instructors can help ESL students improve their writing so as to avoid the problems associated with plagiarism. The key, it seems, is to better understand what it means to develop advanced literacy – university-level reading and writing skills (Scarcella, 2002). The development of this advanced literacy construct is both a linguistic and a cultural journey: students must develop the receptive (reading) and productive (writing) language proficiency required to interpret and create academic papers, but they also need an understanding of the patterns and rules of research writing in English-medium universities as well as the ability to apply those standards to their own work.
For my dissertation research, I would like to explore this issue of advanced literacy in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) students from three related perspectives: the language researcher, the program administrator, and the...