Here's an issue I've been encountering quite a bit lately:
1. A new-ish graduate student is assigned a traditional "grad school term paper." (I'll be honest, I have yet to find a good definition of how exactly this is defined. Quite a bit of the stuff I've read about graduate student writing is geared toward preparing students to do and write about their own empirical research; there is less that I'm aware of that focuses on coursework and course papers as such, which is currently my main concern.)
2. They have some sense that part of what they need to do involves a "literature review." (They're not totally sure what a literature review is, but they know it's important, even if their paper might ultimately have a persuasive element.)
3. They start looking for relevant literature on the thing they're writing about. (This is where things usually start to go off the rails. If the student is simply turned loose on a library database or Google Scholar, they may end up with a random assortment of dissertations, loose PDFs, non-scholarly articles, articles from low-quality or predatory open access journals, etc.)
4. Even if they've run into some of the problems described in #3, they hopefully start to get some sense of who the important scholars are, what the important constructs are and how they're defined, what the seminal papers in the area are, etc. Often this grows out of discussions with the professor.
5. Here's the second place things go wrong: the student starts to quote or mention some of the things mentioned in #4, but they do it by plagiarizing the sources found in #3.
This is really intriguing to me. I often tell students that part of their job is to create a map of the field in their heads or for their own understanding, but it seems that in practice, two maps are in play here: the "mainstream" one that the professor has in mind and is hoping to guide the student toward, and the "underground" one that the student constructs as a performance of "doing a literature review."
The underground map sometimes includes the 'real' map, but, crucially, whether purposefully or accidentally, the underground map itself is obscured: the literature is represented via a mish-mash of unacknowledged quotes, obscured secondary citations, uncited paraphrases, and so on.
Why? I suspect that this happens because the student may be:
a. unaware of the hierarchies of credibility in academic publishing.
b. not yet able understand abstract concepts in the discipline
c. not confident about their English proficiency/reading comprehension/writing skills
d. not aware of "traditional" (i.e. North American in this case) conventions of paraphrasing and citation and/or not aware of recommendations and/or conventions regarding secondary citations
e. and/or in some cases, actually engaging in deliberate cheating behavior for the above or other reasons.
I'm a softie, so usually I assume E is not the case, but even if it is, we could do a better job of helping students understand A-D. Some suggestions on how to deal with this:
A. Explicitly teach students about predatory publishing and geopolitical inequalities in academic publishing. Let students know that "bad" journals and publishers exist and try to help them avoid those, while at the same time encouraging the use of "good" regional open access journals. Sometimes this may involve delimiting the journals or types of journals the students should use, something I've started doing in recent years. (This may be easier said than done. There are many risks in navigating this problem, both in terms of ideological bias and not doing right by students.)
B. Require students to read handbook or encyclopedia entries as part of scaffolding for papers. For example for an annotated bibliography assignment, require 1-2 entries to be handbook chapters, encyclopedia entries, or recent meta-analyses in a given area.
C. Introduce specific assignments or courses in which students are taught how to write for graduate programs.
D. Explicitly teach paraphrasing skills, citation practices (not simply limited to following the letter of, e.g., APA style, but actually teach about the function and purpose of citations - there is research on this!), attribution, etc.
E. Make discussions of academic integrity an integral part of course readings and discussions.
This entire thing is me preaching to myself, because I teach a course that essentially is meant to introduce students to academic literacy practices in a specific discipline that I am slowly (over the last 2-3 years) trying to whip into shape. It's currently for a specific discipline, but I think I can turn it into an interdisciplinary course for graduate students of any stripe if given the opportunity.
I do not practice what I preach (yet), but I'm starting to see what it could look like.