Digital Plagiarism as Digital Cheating: The Influence of Achievement Goals and Copy-and-Paste Function

Date of Completion

January 2011


Education, Educational Psychology|Education, Technology of




This paper presents an empirical study of digital plagiarism. Under two experimental conditions, undergraduate writers were induced to copy from a website and/or a sample essay. The study focused on two possible influences on plagiarism, a) students goals for writing, and b) the affordance of digital learning environment for enabling copy-paste. A 2x2 factorial design tested for effects of contextual variables on plagiarism. Neither treatment showed a main effect but there was a significant interaction in which performance goals lead to more plagiarism when copy-paste is easy. Findings highlight individual-environment interactions, including a writer's adopted goals for writing as set by instructions in the immediate learning context (learning goals vs. performance goals) and the level of affordances including the ease of copy-paste or precautions taken to protect text (such as using jpegs of text). Rather than being directed by student's beliefs prior to, or when they begin a writing task, the on-the-fly interactions they have during the writing task may best explain their tendency toward plagiarism. ^