Nitle Grant, 2003 (National Institute For Technology And Liberal Education)

Plagiarism and Copyright Resource Site: Revised Proposal [abridged]


Plagiarism and copyright violation have emerged as conditions of learning that merit more serious engagement than the prevailing technical solution of after-the-fact detection.  Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin accordingly propose the development of a plagiarism and copyright resource site that would allow liberal arts colleges to engage these interrelated problems at the level of local institutional practices, values, and concerns.  Through a combination of web-based resources, collaboratively developed by faculty, librarians, and technologists, and a series of one-day seminars, open to faculty, staff, and students, the proposed project would create a program of instruction to discourage the occurrence of student plagiarism and copyright violation.


The proliferation of readily available information on the World Wide Web is credited with promoting an epidemic of student plagiarism and copyright abuse at universities and colleges worldwide.  The very technologies that have encouraged these problems among students have in turn been enlisted to fight them: web-based, anti-plagiarism detection services, for example, have flourished as universities and colleges attempt to control its outbreak.  While plagiarism and copyright violation in higher education are very much global problems, their solution might best be sought at the local level.
Rather than a threat to the integrity of higher education, plagiarism and copyright violation might better be understood as inescapable conditions of learning that deserve serious, thoughtful engagement.  While there may very well be a place for anti-plagiarism detection programs and services in higher education, the discourse of combating and surveillance that attend the use and promotion of these technologies is ill-suited in a liberal arts environment.  As a result, Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin (CBB) propose a resource site, a sort of clearinghouse for plagiarism, copyright, and related matters (e.g., fair use), that would allow liberal arts colleges to engage these interrelated issues at the level of local institutional practices, values, and concerns.  Instead of fighting the lost cause of plagiarism and copyright abuse after-the-fact, the proposed resource site would draw on the knowledge and expertise of technologists, librarians, and faculty to develop a program of instruction to educate students about the principles of academic honesty and fair use.
The proposed project includes three phases: the establishment of a formal project management structure by July 2003; the development of a resource site, a test version of which would be completed by January 2004; and the planning and organizing of a pair of one-day seminars, which would provide a forum to engage the wide-ranging issues raised by the project, as well as an opportunity to disseminate and evaluate the project.
Guided by a project management structure, the participating institutions would develop a set of web-based resources consisting of several components (all or parts of which would be available to MANE institutions to be used, adapted, or extended however they saw fit):

  • Dedicated Drupal weblogs to be used throughout the life of the project: they would provide project personnel with a virtual space for collaboration; seminar participants with a forum for preliminary and follow-up discussion; and end users with a public space for discussing the pedagogical uses of and issues raised by the site.
  • A collection of web-based interactive tutorials that provide dynamic, visual examples of the common forms of mistaken or erroneous citation.
  • Static web pages that contain the text of or links to relevant legislation regarding copyright, fair use, etc., as well as links to relevant style guidelines and manuals.
  • RSS feeds (akin to an electronic news clipping service) from professional newsletters and news sources, publishing current articles, reports, and stories on plagiarism, copyright, and fair use matters.

In part to disseminate the resource and in part to assess it, the project would include a pair of one-day seminars to be held at Colby and Bowdoin, respectively.  The seminars are conceived as complementing each other.  Guided by global concerns, the first in October 2003 would provide a general forum for wide-ranging discussions of plagiarism, copyright, and fair use.  A plenary speaker of national prominence (e.g., Ken Crews or Lawrence Lessig) would be recruited along with 6 to 8 lesser known authorities and specialists (e.g., a member of the Beckman Center for Internet and Society, a representative of the music recording industry, a representative of the U.S. Copyright Office, the Chair of the Modern Language Association’s Committee on Information Technology, a spokesperson for the Association of Research Libraries), who would sit on and also lead roundtable or panel discussions.  Besides providing a valuable forum of interest to the general and specialist audience alike, the first seminar in March 2004 would allow the project developers to take stock of the issues embraced by the project and to adjust, adapt, or extend their goals and strategies accordingly.  The second seminar in March 2004 would address the specific, local concerns faced by small liberal arts colleges as they attempt to implement instruction programs that engage the issues of plagiarism, copyright, and fair use.  This second seminar would seek to recruit faculty from CBB as well as other MANE schools to lead panel discussions, and it would include practical workshops that assess and evaluate the project and its effectiveness.

Besides a general resource, the site would be available to MANE colleges to realize specific institutional objectives: it could, for example, be used in first-year orientation programs or first-year writing programs to introduce students to the principles of academic honesty, the conventions of citation, and the use of style guides.  Bowdoin and Bates, respectively, intend to use the resource in these ways.  Other institutions with similar programs would be able to use or adapt the resource site to engage the issues of plagiarism and copyright within an instructional setting that reinforces the values of academic integrity and honesty.

Key Personnel

Colby College

  • Zachary Chandler, Language Tech Consultant (principal investigator/technologist)
  • Marilyn R. Pukkila, Instruction Librarian (instructor)
  • Jean Sanborn, Professor of English (instructor/Writer’s Center representative)

Bates College

  • Michael Hanrahan, Instruction Coordinator and Lecturer in English (principal     investigator/instructor)
  • Thomas Hayward, Humanities Librarian and Lecturer in Classics (instructor)
  • Loring Danforth, Professor of Anthropology (instructor/faculty representative)

Bowdoin College

  • Judy Montgomery, Associate Librarian (principal investigator)
  • Peter Schilling, Director of the Educational Technology Center and Adjunct Assistant          Professor in English (technologist, instructor)
  • Sue O’Dell, Science Librarian (instructor)
  • Liz Muther, Associate Professor of English (instructor/Plagiarism Working Group          representative)