Understanding the Authorial Writer: a mixed methods approach to the psychology of authorial identity in relation to plagiarism.

Thesis


Cheung, Kevin Yet Fong 2014. Understanding the Authorial Writer: a mixed methods approach to the psychology of authorial identity in relation to plagiarism. Thesis
AuthorsCheung, Kevin Yet Fong
Qualification namePhD
Abstract

Academic writing is an important part of undergraduate study that tutors recognise as central to success in higher education. Across the academy, writing is used to assess, develop and facilitate student learning. However, there are growing concerns that students appropriate written work from other sources and present it as their own, committing the academic offence of plagiarism. Conceptualising plagiarism as literary theft, current institutional practices concentrate on deterring and detecting behaviours that contravene the rules of the academy. Plagiarism is a topic that often elicits an emotional response in academic tutors, who are horrified that students commit these ‘crimes’. Recently, educators have suggested that deterring and detecting plagiarism is ineffective and described moralistic conceptualisations of plagiarism as unhelpful. These commentaries highlight the need for credible alternative approaches to plagiarism that include pedagogic aspects of academic writing. The authorial identity approach to reducing plagiarism concentrates on developing understanding of authorship in students using pedagogy. This thesis presents three studies that contribute to the authorial identity approach to student plagiarism. Building on the findings of previous research, the current studies used a sequential mixed-methods approach to expand psychological knowledge concerning authorial identity in higher education contexts. The first, qualitative, study used thematic analysis of interviews with 27 professional academics teaching at institutions in the United Kingdom. The findings from this multidisciplinary sample identified that academics understood authorial identity as composed of five themes; an individual with authorial identity had confidence; valued writing; felt attachment and ownership of their writing; thought independently and critically; and had rhetorical goals. In addition, the analysis identified two integrative themes representing aspects of authorial identity that underlie all of the other themes: authorial identity as ‘tacit knowledge’ and authorial identity as ‘negotiation of identities’. The themes identified in the first study informed important aspects of the two following quantitative studies. The second study used findings from the first study to generate a pool of questionnaire items, assess their content validity and administer them to a multidisciplinary sample of 439 students in higher education. Psychometric analyses were used to identify a latent variable model of student authorial identity with three factors: ‘authorial confidence’, ‘valuing writing’ and ‘identification with author’. This model formed the basis of a new psychometric tool for measuring authorial identity. The resultant Student Attitudes and Beliefs about Authorship Scale (SABAS) had greater reliability and validity when compared with alternative measures. The third study used confirmatory factor analysis to validate the SABAS model with a sample of 306 students. In addition, this study identified aspects of convergent validity and test-retest reliability that allow the SABAS to be used with confidence in research and pedagogy. The overall findings of the combined studies present a psycho-social model of student authorial identity. This model represents an important contribution to the theoretical underpinnings of the authorial identity approach to student plagiarism. Differing from previous models by including social aspects of authorial identity, the psycho-social model informs future pedagogy development and research by outlining a robust, empirically supported theoretical framework.

Academic writing is an important part of undergraduate study that tutors recognise as central to success in higher education. Across the academy, writing is used to assess, develop and facilitate student learning. However, there are growing concerns that students appropriate written work from other sources and present it as their own, committing the academic offence of plagiarism. Conceptualising plagiarism as literary theft, current institutional practices concentrate on deterring and detecting behaviours that contravene the rules of the academy. Plagiarism is a topic that often elicits an emotional response in academic tutors, who are horrified that students commit these ‘crimes’. Recently, educators have suggested that deterring and detecting plagiarism is ineffective and described moralistic conceptualisations of plagiarism as unhelpful. These commentaries highlight the need for credible alternative approaches to plagiarism that include pedagogic aspects of academic writing.

The authorial identity approach to reducing plagiarism concentrates on developing understanding of authorship in students using pedagogy. This thesis presents three studies that contribute to the authorial identity approach to student plagiarism. Building on the findings of previous research, the current studies used a sequential mixed-methods approach to expand psychological knowledge concerning authorial identity in higher education contexts.

The first, qualitative, study used thematic analysis of interviews with 27 professional academics teaching at institutions in the United Kingdom. The findings from this multidisciplinary sample identified that academics understood authorial identity as composed of five themes; an individual with authorial identity had confidence; valued writing; felt attachment and ownership of their writing; thought independently and critically; and had rhetorical goals. In addition, the analysis identified two integrative themes representing aspects of authorial identity that underlie all of the other themes: authorial identity as ‘tacit knowledge’ and authorial identity as ‘negotiation of identities’. The themes identified in the first study informed important aspects of the two following quantitative studies.

The second study used findings from the first study to generate a pool of questionnaire items, assess their content validity and administer them to a multidisciplinary sample of 439 students in higher education. Psychometric analyses were used to identify a latent variable model of student authorial identity with three factors: ‘authorial confidence’, ‘valuing writing’ and ‘identification with author’. This model formed the basis of a new psychometric tool for measuring authorial identity. The resultant Student Attitudes and Beliefs about Authorship Scale (SABAS) had greater reliability and validity when compared with alternative measures.

The third study used confirmatory factor analysis to validate the SABAS model with a sample of 306 students. In addition, this study identified aspects of convergent validity and test-retest reliability that allow the SABAS to be used with confidence in research and pedagogy.

The overall findings of the combined studies present a psycho-social model of student authorial identity. This model represents an important contribution to the theoretical underpinnings of the authorial identity approach to student plagiarism. Differing from previous models by including social aspects of authorial identity, the psycho-social model informs future pedagogy development and research by outlining a robust, empirically supported theoretical framework.

KeywordsPlagiarism; Authorial identity; Academic writing; Pedagogy; Psychometrics
Year2014
PublisherUniversity of Derby
Centre for Psychological Research, University of Derby
Web address (URL)http://hdl.handle.net/10545/324822
hdl:10545/324822
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Publication process dates
Deposited15 Aug 2014, 07:33
Publication dates08 Jul 2014
ContributorsElander, James (Advisor), Stupple, Edward J. N. (Advisor) and Flay, Mike (Advisor)
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