The paper explores the complexity of the notion of plagiarism from sociocultural and psychological perspectives. Plagiarism is a dynamic and multi-layered phenomenon [Russikoff, K., Fucaloro, L., Salkauskiene, D., 2003. Plagiarism as a cross-cultural phenomenon. The CAL Poly Pomona Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies 16, 109-120. ; Sutherland-Smith, W., 2005. Pandora's box: academic perceptions of student plagiarism in writing. Journal of English for Academic Purposes 4, 83-95] and needs to be understood in relation to a specific context of academic conventions and environment. Drawing upon the experiences of 10 Chinese students on a pre-sessional course and subsequently their postgraduate courses, the paper investigates change in these students' perceptions of plagiarism in a different academic community over time. Three English tutors who taught the students on the pre-sessional course were also interviewed to compare their judgment of plagiarism with the students' own accounts of their writing experience. Early results from the study and an extensive review of the literature on plagiarism suggest that learning to write in an unfamiliar academic discourse requires, at the deepest level, the students' cultural appropriation of their conceptual understanding of the way of writing and of the meaning of using the literature to develop their written argumentation. This learning process spans a developmental continuum involving the learners overcoming emotional tensions which arise from changes in their cognition, senses of identity and sociocultural values. A holistic and developmental perspective is thus required to understand changes in students' perception of plagiarism as part of their wider adaptation to the academic conventions of their host countries. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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