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Is Copying Methods Sections on Lab Assignments Plagiarism?

Student Voices

In this video, undergraduate Kaydee West from the University of South Florida in Tampa speaks about her perspective on plagiarism and the importance of writing originally, a.k.a. doing one's own work. In particular, as an Interdisciplinary Natural Sciences major, she points out that there is often confusion in labs on whether it is acceptable to copy methods sections and lab results. 

Watch this short video to hear a student's view on how reusing text in lab assignments may be problematic (2:53 minutes):

Is Copying Methods Sections on Lab Assignments Considered Plagiarism?

  My name is Kaydee and I go to the University of South Florida in Tampa. I am a senior majoring in Interdisciplinary Natural Sciences and I’m going to graduate in May.

  I started using WriteCheck during my freshman year of college. At my university they make a really big deal out of plagiarism; it’s not something they take lightly at all. And so, I think frankly, I was a little bit scared by all of the presentations saying, avoid plagiarism or you’re going to get a double F, which means not only do you fail but everyone is going to know it was because of academic dishonesty. So, I started using WriteCheck just to make sure I wasn’t inadvertently plagiarizing. No one wants to plagiarize, especially not unintentionally. I found WriteCheck and have been using it since.

  I really liked the results that I got from WriteCheck! I thought it was really helpful to determine what areas I needed to work on in my writing.

  The place where I think I see the most potential for plagiarism or where I have seen it has been in lab assignments. I’ve been in biology lab, chemistry lab, physics lab, people think that it’s okay to copy methods or results from others and that’s where I’ve seen a lot of issues. Methods are something that can come into question a lot because there could be a hundred people in a lab doing the exact same thing the exact same way. The instructors have been very clear, though, that in anything you turn in, it has to be your work. So you can’t share your method section with your group or your lab partner because then it’s not your work. It’s a group effort and they’re looking for individual work on these assignments. So it’s really important to do your own work on those sections.

  Plagiarism: it really does rob you of the opportunity to learn because even if you make it all the way through college and you get all the way through whatever amount of education you’re going through, and you plagiarize your whole way and never get caught, eventually that’s going to catch up with you -- because you haven’t learned the skills for one thing, while your peers have been learning by doing their own work, and you are going to reach some point where you’re not going to be able to copy anyone else. There will be some point where you have to do your own independent work, and if all you’ve ever done is copy from other people, you’re really robbing yourself of the opportunity to develop the skills that everyone else has acquired.

  The only advice that I could offer to other students would just be to not be afraid to stand up for yourself and say I’m going to take responsibility for my own work and say, I’m sorry but I’m not comfortable sharing it with you, because like I said, at the end of the day it’s you who has to be happy with your work and your results, and it’ll be you who gets your degree.

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OK or Not? Copying content that everyone knows

Videos, Writing Skills plagiarism, methods, methods sections, lab assignments, copying

Published on by jessicag.