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Towards Consistency and Transparency in Academic Integrity

Edited By Salim Razı, Irene Glendinning and Tomáš Foltýnek

This book is an outcome of the 4th International Conference «Plagiarism across Europe and Beyond» organized by Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University, Mendel University in Brno, and the European Network for Academic Integrity. The conference is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Strategic Partnerships Programme of the European Union. It aims to be a forum for sharing best practices and experiences by addressing issues of academic integrity from a wide-scope global perspective. With regards to the crucial role of ethics and honesty in academic work, universities are in need of more effective policies against infringements of academic standards. The papers in this book therefore aim to contribute to the standardization of consistent and transparent approaches to issues of academic integrity from several perspectives.

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Challenges and Solutions for Academic Integrity in Mass Communication Education in Pakistani Universities (Fahad Mahmood)

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Fahad Mahmood1

Institute of Communication Studies University of the Punjab, Pakistan

Challenges and Solutions for Academic Integrity in Mass Communication Education in Pakistani Universities

Abstract: Diversity between disciplines demands different strategies to ensure academic integrity and enabling faculty, researchers and students to produce original academic work. The discipline of mass communication poses different challenges for academic integrity compared to other disciplines. In addition to writing research dissertations, students are also required to produce TV documentaries, short films and projects in radio, advertising and public relations to complete their degrees. These projects have audio, video and design elements. Innovative strategies are needed to ensure the academic integrity of these works. This study explored the challenges faced by faculty and possible solutions to deal with them. Twenty interviews were conducted with the university faculty. In their responses to the interviews, they proposed new approaches including inculcating a creative mindset, awareness of the need to do work hard, exhibition of creative work, formation of a creative data base, and encouraging enrolled students to perform in creative work. It is hoped that these ideas provide possible solutions to various challenges in ensuring academic integrity in mass communication degree courses.

Keywords: academic integrity, challenges, creative work, mass communication education, solutions


Mass communication is a unique discipline due to various factors. It is connected to both science and arts at a maximum level. It demands expertise in language and literature as well as in physics and mathematics. It is related to literature because of its application in written journalism, scripts in drama and film production, and copywriting in advertising & public relations. On the other hand, it is linked to the pure sciences, especially physics, because of involvement of cinematography and lighting. The information revolution due to digital technology has made the discipline synonymous with information technology. The growth and advancement ← 147 | 148 → of IT depend on the foundation of mass communication. Google and Facebook have become the new modes of communication, from the interpersonal to groups, and reaching the level of mass communication.

Mass Communication educational programs have become one of the most important programs in universities across the globe. The implications of these programs from the micro to macro level are increasing due to the changing scenarios in politics, culture, the economy and technology. Among the political and ideological factors that have increased the significance of this discipline are included the growing wave of ideological conflicts in the world. That growing wave has given birth to challenges to maintain peace in the world. The terrorism and rhetoric of terrorist organizations have created a demand to take mass communication as a discipline with more seriousness and purposefulness. The security challenges created by terrorism and extremism have several dimensions and communication is definitely one of them. Mass communication is used to propagate messages of hatred and to create unrest in the community of nations. The mass propaganda designs of the perpetrators of hate and violence can only be dealt with by the strategic use of mass communication. The war against the terrorism is a psychological war wherein the most effective tool is mass communication. Other than using mass communication for the purpose of counter propaganda, it is being used in diplomatic endeavours for the purpose of lobbying and coalition building. The use of mass communication for the purpose of public opinion formation has taken a new turn and its significance for the purpose of peace building has increased considerably in recent years.

The growth of mass communication as an academic discipline is not only creating new opportunities, but also giving birth to new challenges. Among the challenges, ensuring academic integrity in the students is of growing importance.

Ensuring academic integrity among the students of mass communication is different than for students of other disciplines. The discipline of mass communication being taught across the globe includes dozens of specialised subjects; for example: theory and research, advertising, public relations, journalism, digital media, development communication, film making, international communications, media and cultural studies, etc. In Pakistan the following specializations are offered in mass communication degrees for Bachelor of Science (honors; four year program) and Master of Arts (two year program) and Master in Philosophy (M.Phil; two year program): Theory & research, print media, advertising & public relations, digital media, film making, development communication, and electronic media (TV & radio).

Among all these specializations, theory & research and print media are the only ones in which students prepare their dissertations / theses or final projects ← 148 | 149 → in written form. The soft copies of these can be put through Turnitin and checked for plagiarism. The final projects / theses of all other specializations include works of communication design, video production, audio production, and other promotional material. The creative work is also accompanied by written reports; the sise of the reports depends upon the nature of the specialization and the topic chosen in a particular specialization. Students completing their degree programs in advertising and public relations (PR) are required to do their final projects on advertising or PR or both. In advertising, the written work includes integrated marketing communication campaigns, whereas production-orientated work consists of television commercials, print advertisements, and below the line (BTL) promotional material including streamer, billboards, standees, buntings and other material. Other than these, media plans in the form of Excel sheets are also included in the final project. Similarly, specialization in public relations includes a public relations strategy paper whereas PR promotional material, communication tools and videos are creative products. Final projects in TV and radio consist of production elements (video and audio) and a written report. Written reports are made on the script and production details.

The literature about plagiarism and its various dimensions is mostly related to problem identification. Many studies tell us about the perceptions of students or faculty about plagiarism (Bull, 2001; McCabe & Trevino, 1996). Scanlon (2003) conducted a survey and found that plagiarism was a serious issue and most of the students reported that their peers did it; but interestingly, the results on self-reporting on plagiarism showed a lesser number of cases. Clough (2003) discussed various approaches to detecting plagiarism in text. He declared automatic methods better than manual methods for plagiarism detection.

Plagiarism in the mass communication specializations of radio, TV, advertising, film and public relations can be detected by a change in the style of working and creativity by the students. Bull (2001) found through a survey study that a change in the writing style of students was the best signal for plagiarism. Pennycook’s (1996) work on plagiarism is especially interesting. He described a relationship between text, ownership and memory and tried to draw our attention toward the cultural nature of plagiarism.

Pecorari’s (2001) research findings are also very interesting. She not only analysed the text of students but also conducted interviews with them. Her findings showed that plagiarism was not always intentional and an apparent similarity in the text did not mean that the author produced the text solely with bad intentions. Pecorari (2003) also pointed out the need to take extra care when declaring a written text a plagiarised version. ← 149 | 150 →

Ashworth, Bannister, Thorne and Students (1997) conducted research to find out the students’ perceptions about plagiarism. It was found that, at times, students are unintentionally trapped into plagiarism. It was also found that group dynamics in studies was one of the reasons that made students plagiarise their work.

Maurer, Kappe and Zaka (2006) stated that plagiarism control demanded strategies and tactics beyond the application of software. It cannot be controlled by checking the language similarities by entering the data in available software; rather it demands the expertise of experts and the creation of policies at the supra regional level.

The issue of dealing with plagiarism is different in disciplines in which creative work is presented other than in a written format. Mass communication offers similarities with these disciplines. Computer science is included in the list of such disciplines. Software development and the coding of computer languages for various purposes can hit the plagiarism. Liu (2006) stated that the availability of open source projects has made it easier to plagiarise software in computer sciences. He developed a new tool to detect the plagiarism. Similarly, the availability of an unlimited number of pictures, graphics, illustrations, and audio and video recordings has made it easier for the students of mass communication to fall prey to plagiarism. In countries like Pakistan the issue is more grave, as controlling plagiarism even in written dissertations is an uphill task. The situation is more complex in the case of mass communication specializations that involve design, video and audio elements. Therefore, this study was conducted to understand the difficulties and solutions of ensuring academic integrity in mass communication.

Research Question

What are challenges and solutions for academic integrity in mass communication education in Pakistani universities?


Qualitative methodology of in-depth interviews was used in the study. A total of twenty (20) interviews were conducted. Purposive sampling was the method. Data was collected from the University faculty members who mostly taught and supervised in the areas of TV & radio production, advertising & public relations, and film studies. Universities were selected purposively from across Pakistan. Both public and private sector Universities were included. Interviews were conducted on the telephone. ← 150 | 151 →

Findings and Discussion

It was found that most of the faculty agreed that the discipline of mass communication offered different challenges from other disciplines when it came to ensuring academic integrity. Mass communication has emerged as a unique discipline with its own degree completion requirements. The assignments and projects completed by students not only contain written work but also include a design part and audio & video components.

It was found that Turnitin is not being used extensively by mass communication faculty to check the similarity index of the student’s work. The faculty who teach and supervise in the areas of radio, television and film are not using it at all, but the faculty who teach and supervise in the areas of advertising and public relations use it in a sporadic way; i.e. sometimes they use it for the final projects, but not in the regular class assignments. The possible reasons for not using Turnitin are many. Faculty believe that they have enough experience of supervising the work of students over the years that they do not consider it necessary to use Turnitin for plagiarism checks. They were of the opinion that while supervising the work of students, they monitored the work very closely and students reported to them about the progress at regular intervals. Therefore, there is a continuous monitoring and checking of the work that precludes the possibility of any fake or plagiarised work on the part of students.

Many faculty members also said that they did not have personal accounts on Turnitin software and it was a hassle to use it from the library’s accounts in such a regular manner, which is why they did not use it for the students specializing in TV, radio, film, advertising and public relations.

Several faculty members argued that using Turnitin for radio, TV, film, development communication, advertising, and public relations projects was of no use because one can only check the written work, although that was only a very small part of projects / theses and assignments in these specializations.

Faculty said that there was a definite discrepancy among the different specializations of mass communication when it came to dealing with plagiarism. Usually, research theses are taken more seriously when testing for plagiarism and Turnitin reports always accompany them at the time of submission. For the radio, TV, film, advertising and public relations theses / final projects, Turnitin reports are not always required. It depends upon the discretion of the supervisor whether to ask for Turnitin reports or not. In the majority of cases, supervisors do not ask for a Turnitin report. For assignments, it is very rare that Turnitin reports are required. The reason for these discrepancies is the nature of projects in different specializations. ← 151 | 152 →

Responding to a question on the satisfaction level of academic integrity among faculty for the students specializing in theory and research and other specializations, the faculty said that they were satisfied with the research and theory and print media, but for TV, radio, film, advertising and PR they were not very satisfied. They said that universities took the issue of academic integrity very seriously and there was a high level of consciousness among the faculty when it came to checking the level of similarity in a student’s research and creative work. They said that they had a method to ensure plagiarism-free work for research theses; but for other specializations, they did not have any standardised methods to ensure plagiarism-free work.

Faculty responded that at times students completing their degrees in radio, TV, film, advertising and public relations did take advantage of not having any standardised criteria for accessing the level of similarity in their work. These final projects mostly consist of design, video and audio elements. There is no repository or any database for such work that can make it possible to access the level of similarity in these works.

Faculty showed dissatisfaction over the measures taken by their respective departments and university administration to ensure academic integrity. The level of dissatisfaction was higher for the departments and lower for the universities. They stated that university administration kept on taking various steps to ensure academic integrity among faculty and students. Mostly, the central libraries of the universities play a proactive role in these efforts. At the departmental level, these issues are not discussed or debated at the level they should be. It was also found that faculty feel there is a need to take more steps in that direction because there is still room for produce plagiarised work that could be exploited. They also suggested that students must be made properly aware of the damage and insult that a breach in academic integrity may bring to them.

Responding to the question on the level of difficulty in ensuring academic integrity in class assignments vs. theses / projects, faculty were of the view that ensuring it was easier in final theses compared to class assignments. They said that the number of students in a class, the workload on faculty during the semester, the unavailability of resources and the absence of academic policies are main reasons that prove a barrier for the teachers to ensure academic integrity in class assignments.

Faculty gave a mixed opinion about the incidents of breaches of academic integrity they encountered in their academic routines. They said that occurrence of such incidents depended upon the level of students’ sensitization created during the initial semesters of degree programs. If students are sensitised well at the beginning of their degree programs, then they try to avoid plagiarism and work ← 152 | 153 → with more academic honesty, otherwise they do not take the issue seriously and tend to be trapped in copy-paste routines leading toward plagiarism.

Most of the faculty was of the view that when they encounter such a breach, their response depends upon the level of work that was plagiarised. For class assignments and term papers, usually a penalty is not given and students are warned, guided and then made to revise the work. For final projects / theses, strict actions are suggested. Faculty also gave the opinion that usually students worked closely with their supervisors and cases of plagiarised work were identified at very early stages of the final projects / theses, and students were made to correct them.

Most of the faculty declared that plagiarism both a moral and an operational issue. They said that society was heading toward a moral decline and this was reflected in academic practice as well. They also said that plagiarism was an operational issue because of lack of resources, teaching and supervision workload and the dearth of innovative approaches to managing plagiarism made it difficult to deal with.

Faculty agreed that mass communication students were well familiar with the concepts of academic integrity, plagiarism and originality. Being in a discipline that requires a lot of creativity in written as well as audio-visual content, mass communication students are motivated to practice originality to create an identity for themselves in the creative sector after graduation, in the future. Students are educated that their survival depends upon their ability to make something new through their creative skills. They are discouraged from copying and being inspired by tried and tested formulas. They are educated that in the academic world, plagiarism is the biggest crime that could bring embarrassment to them.

Talking about the challenges that the academic community face while ensuring academic integrity, faculty responded that there were dozens of challenges that one had to overcome to keep the work of students pure from any plagiarism. The challenges faced by faculty included lack of resources, a discrepancy between the requirements to complete the degree in different specializations, the burden on faculty due to teaching and supervision workload, and lack of any systematic and standardised criteria to access the level of plagiarism in the work done in the departments of radio and television production, advertising, public relations and development communication.

Faculty suggested different methods to ensure academic integrity among the students of mass communication. These suggestions and techniques ranged from inculcating an enhanced moral obligation to developing innovative ideas to make the students bound to abide by academic integrity. Faculty proposed inculcating a creative mindset, awareness of the need to do hard work, exhibition of creative work, formation of a creative data base and encouraging the enrolled students to ← 153 | 154 → create possible solutions to deal with plagiarism in mass communication. All these concepts and methods appear to be novel, and could help faculty to create a space for the mass communication discipline that is free from the pollution of plagiarism.

Faculty greatly appreciated the idea of establishing a repository for creative work done by the mass communication students in radio, television, advertising, public relations and development communication. They said that modern digital technology has made establishing such repository quite easy. In Pakistan, all the Universities are connected to each other in the form of a network through the bodies of higher education; that is why they can be asked to become a partner in this initiative. They showed hope that establishing such a network can also help in creating motivation among the students to excel further in their creative efforts.

Faculty said that creation of a moral strength within students that may draw them to remain within the boundaries of academic integrity could be the best possible way to ensure academic integrity. They highlighted the importance of creative mindset as a significant contributor in making creative individuals experts in their respective fields. They said that this factor could make students better learners in their academic lives and honest professionals in the future.


This study concludes that there is a need to adopt innovative strategies to ensure academic integrity in advertising, public relations, radio, TV, film and development communication programs offered in mass communication departments. The faculty should take the issue of academic integrity and plagiarism seriously. The possible solutions should address the issue both at the moral and operational level. Faculty need to take steps to form a database for the design and audio-visual parts of mass communication projects.


Ashworth, P., Bannister, P., Thorne, P. with Students on the Qualitative Research Methods Course Unit. (1997). Guilty in whose eyes? University students’ perceptions of cheating and plagiarism in academic work and assessment. Studies in Higher Education, 22(2), 187–203. DOI: 10.1080/03075079712331381034

Bull, J., Collins, C., Coughlin, E. & Sharp, D. (Eds.). (2001). Technical review of plagiarism detection software report. Luton: Computer Assisted Assessment Centre, University of Luton.

Clough, P. (2003). Old and new challenges in automatic plagiarism detection. Plagiarism Advisory Service. Sheffield: University of Sheffield. ← 154 | 155 →

Liu, C., Chen, C., Han, J., & Yu, P. S. (2006). GPLAG: Detection of software plagiarism by program dependence graph analysis. In Proceedings of the ACM SIGKDD international conference on knowledge discovery and data mining (pp. 872–881), Philadelphia. DOI: 872-881. 10.1145/1150402.1150522

Maurer H., Kappe F., & Zaka, B. (2006). Plagiarism – A survey. Journal of Universal Computer Science, 12(8), 1050-108. DOI: 10.3172/jucs-012-08-1050

McCabe, D. L., & Trevino, L. K. (1996). What we know about cheating in college: Longitudinal trends and recent developments. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 1, 29–33. DOI: 10.1080/00091383.1996.10544253

Pecorari, D. (2001). Plagiarism and international students: How the English-speaking university responds. In D. Belcher & A. Hirvela (Eds.), Linking literacies: Perspectives on L2 reading writing connections (pp. 229–245). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Pecorari, D. (2003). Good and original: Plagiarism and patchwriting in academic second-language writing. Journal of Second Language Writing, 12, 317–345.DOI: 10.1016/j.jslw.2003.08.004

Pennycook, A. (1996). Borrowing others’ words: Text, ownership, memory, and plagiarism. TESOL Quarterly, 30(2), 201–230. DOI: 10.2307/3588141

Scanlon, M. P., & Neumann, R. D. (2003). Internet plagiarism among college students. Journal of College Student Development, 43(3), 374–385.


Interview Questions

Q1. Does mass communication offer different challenges when it comes to ensuring academic integrity than other subjects in social sciences, arts and humanities? If so, then what are the reasons?

Q2. Do you think that Turnitin is being used quite extensively by the faculty to prevent plagiarism among the students? If not, what are reasons?

Q3. Do you find any discrepancy when it comes to dealing with plagiarism among the students completing different specializations in mass communication? Please elaborate.

Q4. Are you satisfied with the level of academic integrity among the students completing specializations in theory & research and other specializations?

Q5. Do you think that students completing their specializations (advertising, public relations, TV, Film, development communication) take advantage of the composition of their final projects, consisting of both written and production work? ← 155 | 156 →

Q6. Are you satisfied with the measures taken by your department or university to prevent plagiarism among the students?

Q7. Do you find assurance of academic integrity more difficult in final projects / theses or in class assignments, or in both cases?

Q8. How often do you find a breach of academic integrity among students you are teaching or supervising and how do you deal with them?

Q9. Is academic integrity a moral issue or an operational issue?

Q10. Do you think that mass communication students are well familiar with concepts of academic integrity, plagiarism and originality?

Q11. As a university faculty of mass communication, what are challenges that you face when it comes to ensuring academic integrity?

Q12. What are your suggestions to ensure the academic integrity among the students of mass communication?

Q13. Please tell us about your concept of establishing a repository of creative work completed by students of mass communication in various universities across Pakistan?

Q14. How can the concept of a creative mind set be helpful in making mass communication students abide with moral responsibility to ensure academic integrity?

1 Assistant Professor, Institute of Communication Studies,