A Tattle Tale?
(2 pages of text)
T.J., an undergraduate at a business school, was upset to find a group mate's contribution to his group project containing plagiarized and poorly paraphrased content (also without any citation as to source in some instances). T.J. and four others had to work with K.C., the errant group member, on three group projects that together made up 30 per cent of the final mark for the course. In particular, T.J. was upset by the shoddy corrections provided by K.C. when his error was highlighted. T.J. was also appalled at K.C.'s nonchalant attitude towards plagiarism and the group projects, especially after discovering that K.C. had done the same on their first group project. T.J. felt strongly that the matter should be brought up to the course professor but two of his group mates disagreed, fearing that the group harmony would be adversely affected, thus jeopardizing their last group project, which carried significantly higher weight at 20 per cent. The remaining two group mates did not seem to consider the matter a serious one. T.J. wondered what the right thing to do would be. This case was written for use in the introductory class to a business ethics course. However, it has potential for use in lessons on negotiation, conflict resolution and team dynamics. The case is based on an actual occurrence but names have been changed to provide anonymity. The subject of plagiarism and a poorly contributing group member to group assignments is one that resonates deeply with students pursuing any course that emphasizes group work as a necessary component of the course assessment. The case has practical relevance to the working world inasmuch as the incident can occur in that context. Apart from being a useful opener to any course on ethics, the case also serves as a good reminder to students about plagiarism. It provides opportunities for clarification and discussion on what exactly constitutes plagiarism and the professors'/universities' stand on the matter.
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