By Amy Sexton, Purdue University Global Writing Center Tutor
As part of our paper review service in the writing center, we routinely provide personalized video feedback along with written comments. I have found that video review works especially well when I review assignments that have recognizable issues with plagiarism. We often see possible plagiarism in student’s papers, especially when students are just beginning to learn and use citation. While our paper review service is not a plagiarism detection service, we are often able to discern problematic areas in students’ papers. Since any issue with plagiarism (intentional or unintentional) can mean serious consequences for students, I usually point out any areas in their papers that may be indicative of plagiarism. Writing centers are, as Buranen (2009) points out, uniquely positioned to be a “safe place” for students to learn about plagiarism and avoiding it in their writing (p. 8). Addressing plagiarism concerns can be tricky, though. Students sometimes equate plagiarism with cheating, and they may react defensively if they feel someone is accusing them of doing something wrong. Fortunately, a video review provides an excellent vehicle for addressing plagiarism issues in students’ writing through relevant and supportive feedback.
One reason that video feedback works well for addressing plagiarism concerns is that the student hears the voice of the person providing the feedback. If tutors and instructors approach instances of plagiarism with tact and kindness, students will hear these positive elements in our voices, which may dissuade them from immediately reacting in a defensive manner. If students only read our written comments about possible plagiarism, they may not detect either tact or kindness and instead focus on negative emotions, including anger, defensiveness, or indignity – all emotions that are decidedly not conducive to learning.
Video feedback also gives educators the ability to show rather than just tell, as I illustrate in the example. We can show students which words appear to be appropriated verbatim without correct quotation. Often times, we can easily find sentences that students may have copied from an internet source and included in their own papers, and we can show students these original sources during the screencast. We can also add missing quotation marks to demonstrate changes students need to make. If the issue is with lack on in-text citation, we can actually add example in-text citations, again giving students a clear picture of what they need to do to correct any issues. We can also show students how to use the “Find” function in Microsoft Word in order to ensure that they have matching in-text citations and references.
By using screencasts to provide feedback when students present with possible plagiarism issues in their writing, both tutors and instructors can enhance students’ understanding of what constitutes plagiarism. In the process, we help create those “safe places” (Buranen, 2009, p. 8) where students can then begin to transform into scholars and researchers who engage in academic discourse and research with integrity and confidence.
Buranen, L. (2009, Jan.-Feb.). A safe place: The role of librarians and writing centers in addressing citation practices and plagiarism. Knowledge Quest, 37(3), 24-33. Retrieved from http://knowledgequest.aasl.org/