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Table of Contents
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 23  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 3-5

When in doubt, cite! do nursing students care to cite? A nurse educator's perspective on plagiarism

Principal, College of Nursing, Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission24-Oct-2021
Date of Acceptance04-Feb-2022
Date of Web Publication04-Apr-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Mini George
Apartment 308, Pragyaan, Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences, Sector D - 1, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi – 110 070
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijcn.ijcn_103_21

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Plagiarism is an age old problem that has plagued the academic landscape. This problem has gone unabated in educational institutions across disciplines. Nursing Education in India is no exception. Many nursing students are unclear as to what amounts to plagiarism or that cheating has consequences. Nurse educators can play an important part and need to feel strongly about academic integrity and not ignore cheating. Creating awareness about academic writing and teaching students to cite, starting from their inception into the program and reinforcing this behavior regularly is an essential component to curbing. Nursing Educational Institutions have to upscale their strategies to prevent this menace. Finally, crucial to understanding and countering academic dishonesty in the classroom and clinical settings; and finding innovative strategies including the role of nurse educators, is to conduct high quality researches

Keywords: Plagiarism, Academic Integrity, Nursing students, Academic Writing, Nursing Educational Institutions

How to cite this article:
George M. When in doubt, cite! do nursing students care to cite? A nurse educator's perspective on plagiarism. Indian J Cont Nsg Edn 2022;23:3-5

How to cite this URL:
George M. When in doubt, cite! do nursing students care to cite? A nurse educator's perspective on plagiarism. Indian J Cont Nsg Edn [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Dec 7];23:3-5. Available from: https://www.ijcne.org/text.asp?2022/23/1/3/342540

  Introduction Top

As in many disciplines, nursing educational institutions across India are faced with an ever-increasing burden of plagiarism among their students. It is a matter of great concern and is disastrous for the profession's ethos. Surprisingly many faculty members and students alike, consider it trivial and inconsequential; hence, view the issue lightly. This apathy could nurture plagiarism. If no proper mechanisms are put in place at the institutional level, without doubt, it could lead to the degeneration of nursing education. This article is intended to draw the attention of faculty and students to the need of building awareness about plagiarism, avoid tolerance and improve attitudes towards academic integrity.

Nursing, in particular, is a profession that demands high standards of care and ethical practice where honesty is paramount and is the bedrock of the profession. Studies have shown correlations between academic misconduct and dishonesty in the workplace.[1] Nursing students of today are the nursing workforce of tomorrow. LaDuke's review showed that nursing students who were academically dishonest may exhibit higher incidence of unethical practices later as registered nurses.[2] Hence, it may be disconcerting to know that those students who knowingly commit plagiarism, lack integrity and honesty which could also be seen in patient care. Further, dishonesty in clinical practice could be in the form of falsifying or altering patients' documents, charting, stealing drugs, not doing the work required, discussing one's patients with others publicly, etc.[3],[4] This trend is particularly disturbing.

What is plagiarism?

'Plagiarism' is derived from the Latin word 'plagiare' which denotes 'to kidnap or abduct'. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, plagiarism is committing intellectual fraud or stealing the intellectual property of others. Broadly stated, plagiarism is when someone uses the idea(s) or work of another person without appropriately citing the source or giving credit to the original person. Plagiarism has existed since the origin of writing itself. In recent years, it has become more prevalent with the advent of the Internet, the open access to materials and information through the World Wide Web.

Why the big fuss about Plagiarism? Is it overrated?

The act of plagiarism is a form of violation of academic integrity and may be carried out intentionally or unintentionally by students. According to the International Center for Academic Integrity, there are five important values such as honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility that uphold academic integrity. Plagiarism tramples upon all these values when stealing the hard work of others. This has serious consequences. Plagiarism can short-circuits the learning process of students, makes them incapable of original thoughts, creativity and critical thinking, destroys the academic rigour of the institution, destabilises the trust between students and faculty and is unfair to others.

Thus, mindfulness to the offence and taking a stance against breach of academic integrity (known as 'academic misconduct' or 'academic dishonesty') should be the matter of priority for institutions, students and faculty alike.

What are the students' perception on plagiarism?

Many reasons can be attributed to plagiarism among nursing students: the foremost being the poor understanding of what constitutes plagiarism.

Many young students choosing nursing as a profession in India are unfamiliar with the concept of plagiarism or with the conventions governing sourcing, from their previous academic background. Very often students do not comprehend it in entirety and demonstrate gaps in understanding. While engaging students in conversation to reflect on plagiarism, it was seen that many believe research studies to be reliable sources of information meant to be consulted like the dictionaries and often assume that it is not mandatory to cite it. Some may even believe that academic writing is collecting the views and opinions of experts on the specific topic and not their own. It is hardly surprising that many students from varied cultural backgrounds with such widely held notions, do not perceive plagiarism to be cheating.

Why do students resort to plagiarism?

Having been trained in a traditional didactic style, many students do not possess skills in academic writing. As echoed in the study of Perkins, Gezgin and Roe, inadequate English language proficiency among these non-native English speaking students causes difficulty in comprehension and in expressing ideas and thoughts clearly and effectively.[5] Academic writing needs to be scientific and evidence-based, providing clear and accurate information. It is an essential skill in all higher educational institutions. While writing, including another person's work may involve quoting, paraphrasing and summarising the others' ideas and citing the author.[6] Quoting is the repeat of exact words or verbatim of an author within quotation marks and citing the original source. Summarising is an act of reducing the text and briefly presenting relevant information without losing meaning, and paraphrasing is the use of one's own words to present others' ideas without changing the meaning. In both paraphrasing and summarising too, proper attention needs to be paid to attribution or citation, that is, to attribute credit to the original source. It is not required to cite common knowledge, one's own thoughts and interpretations. However, whenever faced with a dilemma as to what to source or not to, it is better to remember the old adage: when in doubt, cite! For most uninitiated students, academic writing and citing are skills quite daunting to master and acclimatise. Hence, they may take the shortcut to plagiarism. The other major reasons that contribute include.[7]

  • Competition for higher grade or even fear of failing
  • Cultural messages that promote attitudes of getting ahead by any means possible
  • Viewing the issue as trivial or simplistic
  • Sloppy work and social habits leading to poor time management
  • Shortcut to work and an easy solution
  • Citations are difficult and are different with each formatting styles
  • High volume and difficult course coupled with a low chance of being detected
  • In clinical practice, it is perceived to be due to overwork, inappropriate clinical culture of nurses and poor role models.[8]

What are the popular acts of plagiarism?

The boundary between plagiarism and academic writing is often blurry. Educators and students can take the help of Plagiarism Spectrum of Turnitin to identify the forms of plagiarism. Here, the types are ranked to the severity of intent. The popular acts of plagiarism seen among nursing students include:

  • Copy-and-Paste quotes without in-text citations and/or references
  • Inability to restate the author's ideas in own words to summarise or paraphrase
  • Summarising or paraphrasing with no in-text citation and/or referencing
  • Referencing secondary source as primary source
  • Falsifying references or bibliographies
  • Negligent or carelessly about in-text citations or references
  • Using other person's work as one's own in whole or part
  • Permitting others to use one's work
  • Resubmitting the same work again
  • Letting others write on one's behalf
  • Buying a person's work or selling one's work to others.

The way forward: How to curb plagiarism?

The University Grants Commission (UGC), a statutory organisation of the Government of India in 2018 has taken cognisance of the menace and put in place a formal policy applicable to students, faculty, researchers and staff of educational institutions.[9] With an objective to create awareness, establish institutional mechanisms and to develop systems to detect plagiarism, the regulation defines plagiarism and the duties of higher educational institutions to curb plagiarism. The highlight of the regulation is the establishment of two bodies, Departmental Academic Integrity Panel at the departmental level and Institutional Academic Integrity Panel at the institutional level, respectively, for the detection of plagiarism. In cases found guilty of plagiarising, the penalties based on the level of plagiarism include withdrawal of manuscript and no permission to publish for 1 year, if similarities are 10% to 40% (Level 1). When similarities are 40% to 60% (Level 2), withdrawal of manuscript, no publishing or supervision of any student for 2 years and no increment in pay for a year. For similarity above 60% (Level 3), withdrawal of manuscript, no publishing or supervising of any scholar for 3 years and denial of two successive annual increments of pay. In case of plagiarism below 10%, there is no penalty and the authors shall be allowed to correct and revert the article. The onerous for creating awareness about plagiarism and developing academic integrity among students is the prime responsibility of education institutions.[9]

Thus, all nursing educational institutions regardless of their provision of graduate or postgraduate education should focus their attention on how to prevent or minimise plagiarism in academic writing.[10]

  • Educate students and faculty, raise awareness of what constitutes plagiarism and on the effects of plagiarism by including it in orientation and refresher courses
  • Offer opportunity for students to improve academic writing and citing through writing course
  • In line with UGC norms, articulate measures to handle plagiarism at the department and institution level
  • Make text-matching software accessible and its use compulsory for all academic writing.
  • Faculty are key to bringing about change by reinforcing what behaviours are deemed dishonest in a course.[8] They need to be proactive to:

  • Provide plagiarism information during orientations
  • Review plagiarism policies with students regularly
  • Train and help students in time management, writing and study skills to mitigate fear
  • For each assignment include plagiarism-free declaration to be signed
  • Use assignments that require original thought, making it hard to plagiarise
  • Change assignments and formats for every batch of students
  • Provide clear writing rubrics for every assignment
  • Improve availability and access to adequate resources
  • Using mentors to provide support
  • Use software to check plagiarism for all written work
  • Consistently apply penalty – a zero-tolerance policy
  • Monitor students' assignments and examinations closely.

  Conclusion Top

There is an urgent need to increase students' understanding of plagiarism and its consequences. Academic integrity is a set of values and skills to be taught, consistently reinforced throughout a lifetime of learning. Increasing the awareness and eliminating ambiguity can reduce students engaging in dishonest behaviour.

A paradigm shift is needed in what is expected of institutions in the fight against plagiarism. There are no simple or straightforward formulas to curb plagiarism and different methods need to be explored by individual institutions.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Krueger L. Academic dishonesty among nursing students. J Nurs Educ 2014;53:77-87.  Back to cited text no. 1
LaDuke RD. Academic dishonesty today, unethical practices tomorrow? J Prof Nurs 2013;29:402-6.  Back to cited text no. 2
Johnson JA. Does academic dishonesty result in unethical professional practice? J Nurses Prof Dev 2013;29:271-3.  Back to cited text no. 3
Park EJ, Park S, Jang IS. Clinical misconduct among South Korean nursing students. Nurse Educ Today 2014;34:1467-73.  Back to cited text no. 4
Perkins M, Gezgin U, Roe J. Understanding the relationship between language ability and plagiarism in non-native English speaking business students. J Acad Ethics 2018;16:317-28.  Back to cited text no. 5
Selemani A, Chawinga WD, Dube G. Why do postgraduate students commit plagiarism? An empirical study. Int J Educ Integr 2018;14:7.  Back to cited text no. 6
Cleary MN. Top 10 reasons students plagiarize and what teachers can do about it. Phi Delta Kappan 2017;99:66-71.  Back to cited text no. 7
McClung EL, Schneider JK. Dishonest behavior in the classroom and clinical setting: Perceptions and engagement. J Nurs Educ 2018;57:79-87.  Back to cited text no. 8
University Grants Commission (UGC) Regulations. Promotion of Academic Integrity and Prevention of Plagiarism in Higher Educational Institutions. Government of India/Ministry of Human Resource Development. The Gazette of India: Extraordinary Published on 07-08-2018. PART III-SEC. 4; 2018. p. 7-12. Available from: https://www.ugc.ac.in/pdfnews/7771545_academic-integrity-Regulation2018.pdf. [Last accessed on 2021 Oct 20].  Back to cited text no. 9
Fischer BA, Zigmond MJ. Educational approaches for discouraging plagiarism. Urol Oncol 2011;29:100-3.  Back to cited text no. 10


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