Plagiarism: desperately in need of redefinition in the age of generative AI.

The vernacular definition of plagiarism is often “passing off someone else’s work as your own” or more fully, in the University of Oxford maternal guidance, “Presenting work or ideas from another source as your own, with or without consent of the original author, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement.” This later definition works better in the current climate in which generative AI assistants are being rolled out across many word-processing tools. When a student can start a prompt and have the system, rather than another individual, write paragraphs, there is an urgent need to redefine academic integrity.

If they are not your own thoughts committed to text, where did they come from? Any thoughts that are not your own need to be attributed. Generative AI applications are already being used in the way that previous generations have made use of Wikipedia, as a source of initial ‘research’, clarification, definitions, and for the more diligent perhaps for sources. In the early days of Wikipedia I saw digitally illiterate students copy and paste wholesale blocks of text from the website straight into their submissions, often with removing hyperlinks! The character of wikipedia as a source has evolved. We need to engage in an open conversation with students, and between ourselves, about the nature of the purpose of any writing task assigned to a student. We need to quickly move students beyond the unreferenced Chatbots into structured and referenced generative AI tools and deploy what we have learnt about Wikipedia. Students need to differentiate between their own thoughts and triangulate everything else before citing and referencing it.

Image: Midjourney 12/06/23

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