Aisha Walker

Thinking onscreen

Academic Hygiene


Academic hygiene (Walker, in press) is particularly important when students are working extensively with digital resources.  With paper-based study, students who do not practice good academic hygiene might find themselves searching the library bookshelves on assignment-submission day for the book(s) that they have forgotten to reference: “Green, I know the cover was green.”  However, at least, with paper texts it is unlikely that students will have copied lengthy extracts from the original sources.  It’s as easy to paraphrase as it is to copy by hand.  With digital sources, however, copy and paste is so easy that students are very likely to copy chunks of text, even entire paragraphs, into their notes. This does not necessarily indicate an intention to cheat, simply that it is easier and quicker to copy/paste than it is to paraphrase.  Good academic hygiene is therefore essential.  Students need to make sure that they not only store bibliographic information from all texts that they read but also that any text which is copied into notes is clearly identified as copied, for example, by using a different text colour.  Then, when the assignment is being written, there is no danger of accidentally including the text that had been pasted into preliminary notes.  Of course, ideally students would not copy/paste text into their notes.  However, given that most students feel under pressure when reading for assignments and that copy/paste is so easy then it is unrealistic to expect studnets to avoid copying altogether.  It is far better to advise students on how to practice good academic hygiene so that a strategy of copying from digital source documents into their notes does not lead to accusations of plagiarism in their assignments.

Walker A, (in press) “Technologies” in E. de Chazal (in press)  English for Academic Purposes (Oxford Handbooks for Language Teachers) Oxford: Oxford University Press

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