Much of the discourse surrounding plagiarism is one of fear—a fear of being caught and punished, but many plagiarism examples happen unintentionally as students struggle with a new language, new ideas, and new communities in tertiary education. Specifically, many students are challenged with the task of writing a research paper, which involves finding academic sources, reading those sources to answer a research question, and integrating direct quotations and paraphrasing. Because novice writers often struggle with these skills, what is a developmental stage is instead interpreted as plagiarism. Much of the discussion of plagiarism involves implicit and explicit definitions of ownership, but there is little research about how students understand the concept of ownership in relation to ideas and language. In this qualitative study, we present data from 18 international students at an American-style university in the Middle East who write an introductory research paper as part of a composition course. Results show that perceptions of plagiarism changed in relation to owning ideas, owning language, and owning time spent on the research process and that distinguishing these boundaries is often difficult for students even within their own final research papers. We suggest teaching more robust note-taking strategies, discussing ownership in terms of a writer’s choices in guiding readers through the paper, and creating an environment where students can understand the complexities of plagiarism rather than simply fearing being caught.
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DOI 10.1007/s40979-021-00085-7
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