About the Project
Project A: Country visits
As part of this sub-project the team investigated educational practices in the sending countries of international students, i.e. China, India and Greece. Our research has primarily focused on students who might continue their education in the UK in taught graduate programmes in business and management studies. The aim was not to judge students' previous educational contexts and experiences as either good or bad, but to understand where and why students may be experiencing difficulties as they are adapting to British academia.
Country visits consisted of interviews and focus groups with students, lecturers, British Council staff and others involved in preparing students for their studies in the UK. We visited several campuses (including the libraries) and sat in on lectures. Whilst we were particularly interested in academic writing practices we also recognised the need to place this in the wider context of students coming to the UK.
The following visits were conducted:
Greece: April 2005 (pilot visit to Athens) and March / April 2006
India: November 2005 to January 2006
China: September 2006 and March / April 2007
Project B: UK fieldwork
Country visits were followed by fieldwork with new international students arriving in the UK. Our enquiries began with seeking to better understand pre-sessional English provision as well as institutional and departmental induction phases. We also followed international student cohorts in London and Lancaster and conducted periodic focus groups to gain insights into the students' perspectives as they were adapting to British university contexts. Over time we also started to investigate institutional responses to suspected cases of plagiarism and explored how plagiarism policies and guidelines are actually understood by the students.
We also conducted two in-depth studies of students' academic writing practices. The first study was concerned with the summer dissertation at Lancaster, the second charted students' progress through their first written assignment at the LSE. We looked closely at how students write and the role and use of electronic sources.
Fieldwork for this sub-project has now been completed. We gratefully acknowledge the contributions made by our research assistants, Chris Fenton at Lancaster and Alexander Grous in London.
Project C: Detection
The SDAW project takes a closer look at plagiarism detection software (PDSW), especially in terms of the assumptions that are embedded within it. PDSW is currently being implemented by the majority of UK universities, however, there is little critical discussion of how the software works and of the implications that the technological specifications might have.
In this sub-project we were supported by Dr Angie Chandler from the Computing Department at Lancaster. We would also like to note the assistance provided by several research students at Lancaster: Dominic Duckett, Hongyan (Jenny) Li and Eliot Simangunsong.
Throughout the project period we became concerned increasingly about the diverse ways in which copy detection software is being implemented at departmental and programme level and how this impacts on the way in which software reports are interpreted and used.
With this sub-project our aim was to open the 'black box' of plagiarism detection software, to understand its limitations and to appreciate the ways in which it is being implemented in various contexts so as to better appreciate how to use it appropriately.
Project D: Dissemination
Ultimately the SDAW project team seeks to disseminate the research and development outcomes not only through academic publication of research findings, but also by producing user-friendly sources of information for international students and their lecturers at UK universities. Moreover, we are keen to inject our results into the ongoing policy debate about the way international students are recruited, prepared and taught and how plagiarism can be deterred.
Dissemination for the Student Diversity & Academic Writing Project is ongoing. Ordinarily we seek to slot into larger events so as to meet and engage with interested parties within a context that they would normally use to convene. For example, we contributed to the Annual UKCOSA conference which took place in Swansea in 2006 and we followed this up with two presentations in Manchester in 2007. Other conferences in which we participated in 2006 included the JISCPAS Plagiarism conference in Newcastle and the highly competitive ICIS conference (International Conference on Information Systems) in Milwaukee.
In 2007 we contributed to the EATAW conference (European Association for the Teaching of Academic Writing) in Bochum in June and we took part in the Annual Conference of the Association of Business Schools in Stratford upon Avon in October 2007.