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Avoiding plagiarism, self-plagiarism, and other questionable writing practices: A guide to ethical writing

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Authorship in faculty-student collaborations

Undergraduates, and certainly graduate students, are increasingly involved in research collaboration with their faculty. Along with high grade point averages and scores on standardized testing, undergraduate research experience is one of the most valued criteria for advanced graduate training. As a result, an increasing number of undergraduates are becoming involved in research and authoring journal articles.

Are the authorship guidelines for students different than those for other professionals? Apparently not, according to Fine and Kurdek (1993) who have written on these issues. According to these authors:

“To be included as an author on a scholarly publication, a student should, in a cumulative sense, make a professional contribution that is creative and intellectual in nature, that is integral to completion of the paper, and that requires an overarching perspective of the project. Examples of professional contributions include developing the research design, writing portions of the manuscript, integrating diverse theoretical perspectives, developing new conceptual models, designing assessments, contributing to data analysis decision and interpreting results …” (p. 1145).
Faculty mentors might think of the above student guidelines as being rather harsh. However, consider part of the rationale for these authors’ position that awarding authorship to an undeserving student is unethical:

“First, a publication on one’s record that is not legitimately earned may falsely represent the individual’s scholarly expertise. Second, if because he or she is now a published author, the student is perceived as being more skilled than a peer who is not published, the student is given an unfair advantage professionally. Finally, if the student is perceived to have a level of competence that he or she does not actually have, he or she will be expected to accomplish tasks that may be outside the student’s range of expertise” (p. 1143).

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