Interview With Prof Dr Rahmah Hashim
by Dr Nurul Muiz Murad (firstname.lastname@example.org)
PROF DR RAHMAH HASHIM is the Director of the Centre
for Graduate Studies (CGS) and a professor at the Faculty
of Information Technology and Multimedia Communications
(FITMC) and CGS. She has extensive experience teaching at
various levels, which also includes education for the blind.
Here she shares her views on plagiarism.
Muiz: Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Prof Rahmah: I earned my Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in
Communication from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
(UKM) in 1980. I served in UKM for twenty years from
1980 to 2000, beginning as a tutor at the Department of
Communication and fi nishing my tenure there as the Head
of the same department.
I graduated with a Master’s degree in Instructional Media
Technology from Central Missouri State University in 1982.
In 1989, I was awarded a PhD in Telecommunication from
The Ohio State University.
Muiz: Is plagiarism a big concern at OUM especially with
Prof Rahmah: In all fairness, plagiarism is not rampant at
the postgraduate level but students need to be aware that it
is NOT tolerated.
Plagiarism cases can usually be detected in assignments,
research projects and dissertations at the Master’s level.
On the part of CGS, as soon as plagiarism is detected or
reported, we would not hesitate to bring up such cases to the
University Disciplinary Committee.
Muiz: Can you give us a few general examples of plagiarism
that you have encountered in OUM especially with
Prof Rahmah: Between January 2006 to September 2009,
CGS detected eight plagiarism cases involving Master’s
dissertations. Two students were expelled from OUM for
plagiarising almost 90% of the contents. The others were
slapped with a fi ne of RM500, suspension of study for two
semesters, and given a warning. In research cases, wrongdoers
are directed to come up with a new research title and
proposal, and to begin the research process all over again.
In January semester 2010, two more Master’s projects
were found to be plagiarised. Punitive measures were taken
after the cases have been scrutinised by the University
Disciplinary Committee. The students were given time to
defend themselves. Evidence was produced and the students
Muiz: What is being done at the moment in OUM to
eliminate plagiarism? How can this be applied in CGS?
Prof Rahmah: I do hope the day will come when CGS can
declare that plagiarism is eliminated at OUM’s postgraduate
For the moment, OUM has taken the necessary steps to
deter students from plagiarising.
For every course assignment question, instructions are
given on how to avoid plagiarism by citing sources of
information for the use of words, ideas or data from another
source/person, or by paraphrasing and/or using quotation.
The University Policy, Rules and Regulations explicitly
state that “No learner may plagiarise the intellectual
property of others, including data, ideas, publications and
Plagiarism is considered a serious offence and a violation
of the Learners’ Code of Ethics. This information is published
in the Learners’ Handbook which is available in soft copy
version in MyLMS.
Muiz: How can tutors/facilitators help OUM students so
that they won’t plagiarise?
Prof Rahmah: Tutors/facilitators can play their role
by educating their students about the importance of
maintaining high ethical values of academic integrity. They
must constantly instil awareness on the need to be honest
and trustworthy. They need to give clear explanations at the
beginning of their courses about what constitutes plagiarism,
ways to avoid plagiarism, and the dire consequences of
plagiarism. In turn, all tutors and facilitators need to show
exemplary conduct by not tolerating plagiarised work and
not turning a blind eye when dealing with plagiarism.
Students need to be reminded that the tertiary degrees
conferred to them will be devalued if they were to
compromise academic integrity by paying someone else to
write the article/assignment/thesis for them, or by submitting
someone else’s work as their own, whether with or without
The tutor/facilitator may not be able to detect it then,
but over time, the act of plagiarism will have an effect on
the person. The feeling of guilt will always hang over the
person’s conscience. In the long term, he/she will reveal
his/her inability to develop the essential skills of academic
researching and writing which underlie postgraduate
Getting a degree may be of paramount importance to
the individual student, but every student must be aware
that he/she cannot, must not and should never compromise
academic integrity for the sake of obtaining a degree.
Muiz: What will be the challenge in OUM to eliminate
Prof Rahmah: OUM students have the added advantage
of accessing numerous e-materials from the digital library
besides the use of Google and other search engines to locate
a wide range of information and knowledge. It is tempting to
“cut and paste” chunks of information from those available
sources under the false assumption that tutors/facilitators/
examiners would not know that the work is not original.
This becomes especially tantalising when students face
deadlines and feel pressured to submit their work. Whatever
the reasons, plagiarism is a white collar crime, an offence
against the learners’ code of ethics, against the University
policy, rules and regulations, and is against OUM’s noble
values and intellectual conduct.
The challenge lies in monitoring all the assignments and
documenting research projects/theses/dissertations to ensure
that the students’ work is plagiarism-free. To help prevent
plagiarism, one of the immediate actions taken by OUM is
to subscribe to plagiarism detection software.
Muiz: Do you think that OUM has to deal with more
plagiarism cases, given that we are an ODL institution?
Prof Rahmah: Being an ODL institution does not make
OUM more susceptible to plagiarism or less accountable
for such unethical conduct. Plagiarism is a serious problem
faced by all academic institutions in the world.
Muiz: Do you think postgraduate students plagiarise less
compared to undergraduate students? Why?
Prof Rahmah: Plagiarism occurs at all levels of academia. It can occur
at the baccalaureate level, Master’s level or doctorate level.
Though punishments are meant to deter offenders, it is
hoped that learners (regardless of academic level) would
seriously avoid the pitfalls of plagiarism. They should
instead focus on the noble values of integrity and academic
Punishments for plagiarism are very harsh. So better
steer clear of the offence before punishment is meted out.
No point regretting and crying over spilt milk only after
you have been expelled, or after seeing your name splashed
in the front pages of newspapers for all the wrong reasons,
or having your name deleted from the list of graduating
students, or for the university to retract the award from you
after having graduated, thus bringing shame to your family
and/or workplace for the wrongdoing. As the Malay saying
goes: Menyesal dahulu pendapatan, menyesal kemudian