Culture and Academic Integrity

Concepts of Plagiarism

While many international students know that plagiarism is considered bad and can have grave consequences in the U.S. academic system, many do not truly understand what it means because they come from academic traditions in which the concept of “owning” an idea may not exist in the same way it does in the US – certainly not at the secondary education level. Referencing and citing of sources may have never been part of their education or may not have been taught in the same way in their culture’s academic expectations.

Use of Sources

International students may come into the U.S. academic system with training and beliefs about using sources that can lead to dire consequences. In a number of cultures, students are expected to know and use the words of others – experts – rather than their own words, and this does not need to be acknowledged in their writing. It is considered respectful to use the words of the wiser people, and it is assumed and understood that no student would be able to think of such ideas on his or her own.

Students may have also been expected to memorize the information given to them by their instructors or textbooks and then reproduce it almost word-for-word when asked to write.

They may not have been expected to do research on their own that would require them to find, reference, and cite sources in the same way. 

SEE: Understanding Plagiarism for strategies on avoiding plagiarism and what to do if it is found in a student’s writing.