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Engineering Students’ Understanding of Plagiarism

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Engineering Ethics Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.642.1 - 26.642.11



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Paper Authors


Susan L. Murray Missouri University of Science & Technology

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Dr. Susan Murray is a Professor of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology. Dr. Murray received her B.S. and Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from Texas A&M University. Her M.S. is also in Industrial Engineering from the University of Texas-Arlington. She is a Professional Engineer (P.E.) registered in Texas. Prior to her academic position, she spent seven years working in the aerospace industry. Dr. Murray's research interest include safety, human factors, and engineering education.

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Amber M. Henslee Missouri University of Science & Technology

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Dr. Amber Henslee received her doctoral training at Auburn University as a Clinical Psychologist. In addition, she completed an APA-approved clinical internship at Yale University and her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Dr. Henslee’s clinical specialties are within the areas of addictions and trauma. She teaches General Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Health Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, and Undergraduate Internship. Her research interests include college student health-related behaviors, and the scholarship of teaching and learning.

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Douglas K. Ludlow Missouri University of Science & Technology

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Dr. Ludlow has been an Engineering Educator for 29 years. He has been the department chair of Chemical Engineering three different times at two different Universities. He is currently the Director of the Freshman Engineering Program at Missouri University of Science & Technology.

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Engineering Students’ Understanding of Plagiarism Abstract Submission for ASEE 2015The engineering profession has clearly embraced the importance of ethical behavior among students andworking professional engineers. The prevalence of unethical behaviors, such as plagiarism, amongcollege students has increased significantly in the past 30 years (McCabe, Trevino, & Butterfield, 2001).Research suggests that science and technology students have the highest levels of cheating includingplagiarism (McCabe, 1997). University educators often debate whether plagiarism is committed willfullyor unintentionally out of ignorance and research investigating this area appears equivocal (Barry, 2006;Barrett, & Cox, 2005). Therefore, we sought to investigate first-semester freshmen engineering students’understanding of plagiarism at a science and technology university.Nearly 1,000 first year engineering students at a Midwestern university completed an online survey andcorresponding quiz designed to assess their understanding of plagiarism, and a self-report measure oftheir perceived academic integrity. The vast majority of students were recent high school graduates fromthe United States. Males outnumbered female students, as is the case in the freshmen engineering classand student body at the university and across the country.Participants rated themselves as 5.5 on a 7-point Likert scale of ethical behavior (0 = “not at all ethical”and 7 = “extremely ethical”). Only 5.2% of participants rated themselves below the mid-point on theethical behavior scale. Additionally, approximately 91% reported having previous training or educationalexperience about cheating, plagiarism, and/or student misconduct. Three items on the survey provided apassage and then specifically assessed students’ ability to determine whether a sentence related to thepassage was plagiarized. Response options included “yes”, “no”, and “I don’t know”. For the threequestions; 60%, 38%, and 87%; respectively, selected the correct answer. The incorrect answer wasselected 33%, 51%, and 4% of the time. “I don’t know” was selected 7%, 10%, and 8% of the time.These preliminary findings indicate shortcomings in first semester, freshmen engineering students’understanding of plagiarism and its significance. Although the vast majority of participants’ self-identified themselves as ethical and as having previous training regarding academic integrity, whenspecifically tested on their understanding of plagiarism on average only 60% of students answeredcorrectly. These data suggest the possibility that, in some situations, students failure to follow properacademic guidelines maybe a lack of understanding rather than a willful violation of academic integrity.The paper concludes with recommendations for improving engineering students understanding ofplagiarism and its consequences. An annotated list of references and online training available forinstructors’ use is provided. A discussion of plagiarism software (such as iThenicate) and referencingsoftware (such as Endnotes) is included.

Murray, S. L., & Henslee, A. M., & Ludlow, D. K. (2015, June), Engineering Students’ Understanding of Plagiarism Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23980

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