Muscat: University professors in Oman have said that students who are caught using material from Wikipedia in their assignment submissions will be told to redo them, or worse still, be awarded a zero on that subject.
Times of Oman spoke to university teachers and lecturers in the Sultanate, who said that their universities had strict checking procedures to ensure their students were not found using copy-pasting information from Wikipedia, instead of doing the research required to actually understand the subjects they were studying.
Dr Saqib Ali is the Head of Department of Information Systems at the College of Economics and Political Science at Sultan Qaboos University.
He revealed that students who were caught plagiarising work from Wikipedia would be handed a zero on their submissions.
“At SQU, our academic policy is very clear,” said Ali. “Academic curriculum must be that which enables students to develop proper cognitive and logical reasoning, not point them in the direction of just copying and taking things from easily available online sources. It is part of our academic procedures to inform students about the consequences of taking information from sites such as Wikipedia.
“Any student who is caught plagiarising information from Wikipedia or any other site will straight away get a zero on that assignment,” he added.
“Of course, we will hear out the student because there may sometimes be some exceptional circumstances that we did not know of previously, but otherwise, there is no chance for them to resubmit this assignment once again. They will straight away be awarded a zero.”
In addition, Al Mahanad Al Badi, an English Language Instructor at the Mussanah College of Technology, said that he worked with students in his class to ensure that their sources of research were ones they had found themselves, not lifted from Wikipedia and other open-source sites.
He said: “If they ask about using Wikipedia, we will tell them that this is not acceptable, so we will ask them to go back and find other sources. I ask my students to bring me their sources, so that I know they are not made up, and if these are online links, I ask them to email them to me. I check these articles by myself and then I give them the green light. Then I look at what is reliable and what is not.”
Students who were found using Wikipedia would be asked to redo their assignments, and the college also employed detection software such as Turnitin to ensure that no plagiarism took place.
Al Badi added: “Finding sources is a learning process. It’s not like I am going to punish them but if I do find that you have used Wikipedia, then I will give the assignment back and ask you for a re-submission, because the student needs to learn that using Wikipedia is not acceptable. The student needs to know this so I will ask for a redo.
“We also use Turnitin to check for plagiarism and if there is anything cited either directly or indirectly from Wikipedia, this software would recognise it, so when we submit it, we will show them that this is where the source came from,” he said. “Even if they mismatch their sources, we can recognise that this particular source does not belong to the data mentioned.”
Also, Eliott Wright, Director of Pathway Programmes at Muscat University, said most institutions had their own academic policies to ensure plagiarism did not take place.
“Universities should have their own academic regulations and procedures to ensure this doesn’t happen, such as the use of software such as Turnitin,” he explained. “We use trained and skilled teachers who can detect plagiarism, but most importantly is a rigorous academic integrity policy and academic misconduct process.
“Yes, software to detect this does help, but students should be briefed about plagiarism and academic integrity in orientation and in student handbooks,” added Wright. “However teachers and academics need to constantly inform students on their programmes and get students to understand why they shouldn’t plagiarise.”