Education on Plagiarism: Textbooks on Chinese-L1 Academic Writing Published in China

Yongyan Li*, Qianshan Chen, Meng Ge, Simon Wang, John Flowerdew

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Teachers in Anglophone universities have often attributed Chinese ESL students’ plagiarism to “cultural difference”, the implication being that what is considered plagiarism in the English-speaking world may not be seen as plagiarism in China. We believe this assumption needs to be questioned on the basis of systematic evidence gathered from the local L1 (first language) context; a large collection of writing textbooks published over time is potentially a valuable dataset for starting to look for such evidence. By analysing the relevant content in a collection of 60 textbooks on Chinese-L1 (Chinese as the First Language) academic writing, our study aimed to answer this question: According to these textbooks, what is plagiarism and how can one avoid plagiarism? Data-driven content analysis revealed that despite alignment with the Anglophone world in defining what is plagiarism, their approach to dealing with it differs. The Chinese textbooks focus on large-scale copying in conceptualising plagiarism, with explanation of plagiarism at local or sentence and paragraph levels, bypassed; and for ways to avoid plagiarism, self-discipline and the formalities of source acknowledgement are emphasised, but textual strategies of proper source citation are hardly addressed. We point out that such gaps in the textbooks, and accordingly, in the Chinese education system, are partly responsible for Chinese students’ confusion in the proper practices of source use in academic writing. We end the paper by proposing avenues for future research for further understanding the issue of plagiarism in the local L1 environment and for interrogating the debatable “cultural difference” view of plagiarism.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages27
JournalL1 Educational Studies in Language and Literature
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory

User-Defined Keywords

  • how to avoid plagiarism
  • plagiarism among Chinese students
  • textbooks on Chinese-L1 academic writing
  • What is plagiarism
  • “cultural difference” view of plagiarism


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