Go to contents

College Teaches Ethics Course on Plagiarism

Posted March. 08, 2008 04:26,   


It’s 10:00 a.m. on Mar. 7. In classroom No. 404 in unit 87 at the Gwanak Campus of Seoul National University, the first class of Truth-Seeking and Academic Ethics was held.

Professor Kim Myeong-hwan, standing on the platform, begins the lecture.

“These days, when students are given assignments, they first open Naver and do a search. What’s more, a significant number of students include ‘Naver JishikIN’ as a footnote when writing their reports or theses.”

The 80 students filling the classroom erupt into laughter at once.

But Professor Kim’s face is solemn.

“This is an undeniable act of plagiarism, but students are not even aware of why it is plagiarism because they have never been educated about it. That is what this course is designed for,” professor Kim explains. Smiles fade way from the students’ faces.

Professor Kim immediately poses a question.

“If a student hands in a report that he or she has handed in before in another class, is this cheating, even though the report was written by the student on his or her own?”

Students remain silent unable to answer. They seem nervous.

Professor Kim goes on to explain, “It might be, and it might not be. Universities in other countries have provisions regarding ‘self-plagiarism’ but unfortunately Seoul National University doesn’t have any investigative procedures or disciplinary provisions.”

Truth-Seeking and Academic Ethics is a course that teaches undergraduate students the importance of not plagiarizing. SNU, badly damaged by the Hwang Woo-suk scandal, has been preparing this course since February 2007.

The course will be run three hours per week and taught by professors from each department, including law professor Cho Guk, art professor Kim Jeong-hee and humanities professor Han Jeong-suk.

“This course intends to teach basic academic ethics and civic duty to undergraduate students beginning their academic life,” said biology professor Lee Hyeon-suk, who led the implementation of this course. It consists of case studies on violations of academic ethics, mock courts and discussions.

Professors will evaluate the reports handed in by students directly based on international standards of plagiarism and give them back to the students.

“We initially limited the quota to 80 students, but we continue to receive requests for registration,” said an official at SNU. “We are surprised to see that so many students are interested.”

As if to reflect the popularity of the course, students ranging from freshmen to seniors of almost every department, such as the College of Humanities, College of Social Sciences, and College of Business & Economics, have registered for the course.

Park Mun-gyeong (20•female•diplomacy major), who is taking the course, said, “I know academic ethics is continuously emphasized, but sometimes students are unable to stick to academic ethics because of the lack of awareness. I hope to learn about academic ethics and plagiarism through this course.”

“The reality is that there is not a proper textbook to teach ethics to undergraduate students,” said professor Lee. “I hope this course will become an opportunity to improve academic ethics not only at SNU but throughout Korea as well.”

alwaysj@donga.com niceshin@donga.com