Publication Details

Walker, R. (2009). Originality, imitaton and plagiarism: teaching writing in the digital age. International Journal of Educational Integrity, 5 (1), 38-39.


At one stage in the anthology Originality, imitation and plagiarism: Teaching writing in the digital age, it is pointed out that students 'worry' about plagiarism in the same way that they worry about engaging in file-sharing or illegally downloading software. That is - they don't. The attendant risks of getting caught or becoming vulnerable to a computer virus are recognised as the potential bad outcomes, but have become steadily normalised. This analogy, with its viral undertones, nicely expresses the quandary at the heart of a discussion of students' writing in the digital age, where the expanded possibilities of online research seem to not only model but to openly invite copying practices. It is increasingly difficult for student writers to negotiate the competing pressures of popular media culture, which actively complicate the concepts of originality and imitation, and the pedagogical directives to avoid plagiarism in their academic work. The issue is not as clear cut as some plagiarism policies might suggest, as the complexities of fair use and copyright of online material are being debated both in and out of the academy. This anthology explores the blurred lines of the often confusing and contradictory approaches to writing in the digital age, with individual essays addressing - through a range of disciplines and technologies - the central question of how ethical research and writing standards and practices can be fostered while simultaneously taking advantage of the opportunities provided by new technologies.