Why is plagiarism so rampant here?

Can’t disagree with current saturation levels, but I think my point still stands, and I certainly don’t think this is a problem that originated with or is confined to Chinese students.

It isn’t, but it has become commonly accepted practice because these schools need Chinese students to survive, not Arab or Thai students.

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It was a commonly accepted practice when Chinese students started showing up in large numbers, having been established with previous waves of international students from weak educational backgrounds which coincided with globalization of education and a fall in government support for universities across the western world.

I’m not saying that Chinese students haven’t been overwhelmingly the primary cash cow for western universities for about the past 20 years. But I don’t think it is fair to pin the whole thing on them, when we take a longer and broader perspective…

Dissertations go on the public record, correct? Meaning, someone potential employer can look it up?

The idea that profs are encouraged to pass completely sub par students is a myth and one that circulates among students who don’t really know much - in the U.K. that is. Plenty of students are kicked out or go home without passing.

There’s also plenty of software for checking for plagiarism these days, and it’s easy to spot anyway.

I wouldn’t say that it happens with every international student and every professor and every department in North America, but it absolutely happens

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I wouldn’t say it doesn’t happen anywhere either but it’s blown out of all proportion. Usually by the kiddies

At my school (moderate plagiarism) I asked if anyone had ever been expelled for it and the answer was no.

There is software for checking for plagiarism these days, but there is no software for checking for ghostwriting or google translating an essay.


It’s easy to spot, and usually full of plagiarism so gets picked up by the software

I’m not sure about master’s dissertations etc., but PhD theses do in many places. When I did mine we were obliged to submit hard copies for the university and British Library in addition to an electronic version (I think that was a relatively recent thing at the time, about 10 years ago).

In principle anyone could therefore request and read the hard copies or electronic versions. It’s probably unlikely though, unless the author later becomes a high-profile person (I think this has happened for a couple of German politicians).

And Tsai

I don’t have too much experience with Taiwanese students/authors, but I’ve proofread a couple of PhD theses and first-year reports in the past for students from Eastern Europe (Poland, Serbia, etc.) and Russia and all of those contained some degree of plagiarism. I didn’t bother editing those sections and just had a little rant at them for being dishonest and wasting my time before telling them to have another go. I don’t remember encountering much plagiarism from my students when I did a postdoc in China, funnily enough, but they might have been an exception.

I do edit quite a lot of academic papers for Chinese authors, and it’s actually quite rare that I see any obviously plagiarised text. I’ve probably edited around 1000-1200 manuscripts at this point, of which maybe 50-60% were from China and 30-40% from Japan, and I can probably count on two hands (or definitely two hands and one foot) the number of times I’ve had reason to suspect plagiarism.

Only several of those were really egregious cases - I remember one paper about corn peptides or something where much of the text had just been lifted directly from existing literature. Some of this was just really stupid too - things like taking two paragraphs from a study about the biological effects of milk peptides and just changing “milk” to “corn” throughout, thus making it both plagiarism and factually wrong.


Yeah, I know, I just didn’t mention her because I remember the case seemed like bullshit the last time I checked but didn’t want to have to look it up again. :slight_smile:

They still probably don’t understand the concept of plagiarism, and haven’t really encountered it before. Quite likely they’ve been doing this for years without anyone even telling them it’s wrong. (How that happens bewilders me, but it does seem to happen; I think one common reaction is “But teacher, I only copied two paragraphs, and not the whole thing: that’s not plagiarism, is it?”)

What I tend to do is have a couple of assignments early on that need research, and fail them badly if / when they plagiarize. That way by the time major assignments come around they’ve started to figure out the rules. I operate on the assumption that MANY are going to plagiarize (and fail) the first research assignment - so I make that a relatively minor assignment. I think a small minority know they’re cheating, but most don’t realize it.

Mind you, I suspect a big chunk of my students still finish my course thinking that “Oh yeah, with THAT teacher don’t plagiarize - it’s a weird pet peeve of theirs”, and don’t clue in that, no, it’s bad.

I’m curious what @Gain has to say about this actually - I’ve heard that one reason plagiarism is so common is because “Taiwanese culture” is different and that plenty of high school involves just memorizing and then transcribing relevant Important Passages From The Past, with no citations or indication of quotations. So if that’s what they do through high school, then shouldn’t you just transcribe relevant passages in English class too? But I have no idea how accurate that theory / Just-So-Story actually is. Do those who have gone through the local high school system have ideas about why plagiarism doesn’t seem to be really understood by many university students?


Because they aren’t native English speakers so to expect them to write anything like actual college students when they probably just passed some standardized tests to say they have enough English level to get into college.

Honestly why not just have them write journals in Chinese? Why force them to write in English? If they’re plagiarizing Chinese materials then they should bear the full weight of academic consequences.

But if they won’t even do that, then there’s something wrong.

And a certain recent mayoral candidate in Kaohsiung. Boohoo!


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There are journals written in Chinese, although I can’t think of any major or particularly well-known ones - whenever I come across them they tend to have names like Anhui Normal University Journal of Coal Science B or Second Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University Journal of Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine and websites that make Taiwanese websites look professional.

English is (currently) the international language that researchers need to publish in if they want their work to reach a wider audience, and publishing in international journals is usually a requirement for academics who want to receive funding and progress in their careers. Before English it was German (at least in my field) and before that it was French…and maybe it’ll be Chinese in 50 years. But for now it’s English.

The bonuses given to Chinese academics who publish in international journals can also be pretty crazy - I remember it being something like up to 500,000 or maybe even 1,000,000 yuan for the top journals at the university where I worked, although I think those policies may be becoming less common now.

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If they are given half a million yuan to publish research in English then they have the money to pay for a proper translator to translate them. There’s no need to plagiarize and it would not pass international standards.

But we’re talking about people getting undergraduate degrees. 95% of them are not going to be publishing papers at all! So it’s weird to expect them to write in decent English. They should just write in their native language. Because otherwise since their English is never up to scratch they’re going to plagiarize no matter what. Chinese is a hard language even for Chinese people to learn, I mean it’s a 4000 year old language. It would be like if everyone has to be an Egyptologist and learn Hieroglyphics to get into college. Written Chinese language is at least that old. Then on top of that they must learn English, with all the nuances and confusing grammar rules. Nobody in the US is expected to do any of that for example. They just needed to get good at English and even they struggle at that.

Half of the Chinese students in my grad school can barely speak English in the UK. I have no idea how they got in. My school uses the Chinese students to push up their female student body, I’ve seen like 3 western women in my entire class. The rest is Chinese girls. I hate working in projects with them, they always pressure me to switch to speaking Chinese. I refuse because we are in England.

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