In order to help tackle some problems with plagiarism on a postgraduate programme in the School of Management, an early essay was introduced. This case study from Dr Bruce Rayton provides the background, information on the essay, and the results and advice.
There were a surprising number of similar plagiarism cases from the MSc students, with ‘explanations’ along the lines of:
“I didn’t know …”
“I did exactly what I did on my first degree.”
“I passed the Academic Integrity Test at 92%, but ….”
Taught postgraduate (PGT) students in the School come with a good first degree from a good university. However, there is a huge variety in their first degree subject and backgrounds. Approximately 80 percent pay overseas fees, and even though some of these students arrive from UK universities, there is a vast range of national educational backgrounds represented on these degrees. Because of the design of these postgraduate programme, students only have two taught semesters in Bath. There is no ‘pass/fail first year’ during which students can learn our ways: all marks count towards the eventual classification of the degree.
The intervention: Managerial Challenge Essay (MCE)
A short academic essay was introduced for the very beginning of the academic year. The 750 word essay is due in week 2 and is submitted online. Here is an excerpt from the instructions to provide some detail:
Managerial Challenge Essay (MCE)
The Managerial Challenge Essay has been designed to identify gaps in your academic writing skills and/or understanding of how to apply those skills within this university’s expectations regarding academic integrity. A key aim is to give you the earliest possible feedback on your academic writing skills, which will cover a range of areas, but demonstrated mastery of reference technique will be essential to the award of credit for this task.
Identify an important managerial challenge facing organizations today and indicate one academic theory that can help organizations as they attempt to meet this challenge. Support your reasoning with reference to at least two articles listed within the Scopus database.
- Word limit: 750
- Deadline: 1400 on 12 Oct 2016
- Submission via Moodle workshop; Feedback returned via Moodle
Feedback was provided with the following:
- Similarity report (TurnitIn).
- Feedback from a PhD student on writing style.
- Feedback from three peers using the Moodle Workshop activity.
- Pass/Fail determination by Director of Studies.
The essay was introduced in 2015 and the following figure illustrates a 52 percent the decline in the cases of plagiarism (per 100 students) in the 2015/6 cohort relative to the previous year:
Challenges & Opportunities
From experience over two years of this essay, the following challenges have been identified:
- Significant amount of work.
- Required acquiescence of six unit convenors who uniquely covered the target population.
- Managing student expectations.
- Impact of late arrivals & registrations.
However there are also several opportunities to consider further for the future:
- It has been very useful for establishing/deepening bonds between students on different degree cohorts immediately following induction.
- This approach could be a useful part of a programme-level approach to assessment.
- With this is mind, the School could now look to remove some essay-based work from assessment portfolios of programmes.
- In principle, this approach could be useful for the assessment of other skills that are relied upon across the duration of a programme.