The Chronicle Wired Blog points to an article in which the author takes faculty to task for plagiarism. She claims that “indulgent lecturers” fan the flames of plagiarism by spoonfeeding students too many handouts and powerpoint slides that condition them to just take whatever information they have available and integrate that into their writing with little critical thought or analysis – not to mention actual notetaking, reading of texts or the use of research techniques that go beyond mere cutting and pasting of internet content (including library database articles).
I would agree that faculty do bear some of the burden for the increase in plagiarism, but I don’t think it has as much to do with their teaching methods as it does with the way in which research assignments are designed and conducted throughout a course. Handouts and slides have their places as teaching tools, although as academic librarians we often see some serious cases of “death by powerpoint” (I refer primarily to students printing out the massive slide sets that typically come with textbooks or course cartridges). As with all other teaching techniques it comes down to whether it’s being used appropriately or plain old abused.
If there is any one area in which faculty complacency is apt to lead students to plagiarize, most academic librarians, I think, would more likely to point to assignments that lack the appropriate guidelines (pointing students to acceptable resources), statements of expectations (or rubrics that make it clear that more than cut and paste research is needed to achieve a good grade) or a research plan for the course that creates review points, the submission of bibliographies and drafts, and other steps to keep students from simply cutting and pasting together the standard ten page paper the night before the assignment is due. Many of us offer faculty development workshops to help our instructors create more plagiarism-proof assignments, but far too few take us up on them. Perhaps the continuing flood of articles that indicate how pervasive plagiarism is becoming will cause more faculty to take action, but I fear that many more will just continue to assume the institution’s plagiarism detection software will take care of the problem.