Growing up as a young scholar, one thing that has always crossed my mind was the impact of academics on the development of society. That is, the felt and real-time value participation in academics have to bring to the table of the scholar or the immediate/local and remote/global society. I pondered over the numerous papers written by members of the academic community and the value they actually have to offer.
I wandered in thoughts to the political terrain; after many years of research, why haven’t the political scholars been able to recommend practices that would change the political system and practices in the country? I looked at the educational system; why can’t educators write and recommend sound educational curriculum that can change the existing circumstance?
So many thoughts for a young scholar in search for true intellectuality – a true solution to societal problems through the academia. Unfortunately, I was unable to fathom why academics was unable to solve societal problems; not until I found myself in the Master’s terrain.
A Shocking Discovery
Upon stepping into the Master’s programme terrain, that was when I discovered the base of the problem. It is understandable that the undergraduate studies are to help scholars familiarize themselves with the ways of academics after which they master and become developers of knowledge for their society through qualitative and valuable papers.
I realized that the level of contributions academics can give to the society all boiled down to the quality, worth and weight of the documents produced by members of the academic community and ably accepted by the university. The mindset I brought to bear in my second degree was one with search for knowledge and intellect. I was poised to learn, add value, create, assert, postulate, theorize and change narratives. The spirit was high, the mindset was well founded. However, the community wasn’t built in alignment with such high-spirited scholars.
All those mindset died the day a lecturer added his name to a Masters’ assignment and sent it as a material for publication. My thoughts went wild; I was lost in thoughts trying to fathom why a lecturer would not care about his personality to the extent of publishing a material coined by a Master’s student. What is all these for; for academic growth? These are actually the fault of the university not the lecturers.
The weight of the crop of Master’s students referred to here don’t understand plagiarism in its fullest sense. Neither do they understand what I referred to as “author’s concept” in a book. The best of their works is the addition of test to test lifted from many authors to form a personal material. Are these what a lecturer would allow to be published as a book in his name? Does the lecturer understand that scholars like us are only looking for books to read with the author’s concept? For if your materials are not introducing anything new or attacking a basic problem, I wouldn’t read. These is not what actually pushed me into a Masters’ programme.
It wasn’t long before I got to the understanding of why academic papers are scarcely impactful. Why would they be impactful when they were mere copied and pasted; a mere addition of text to text? Truly, academics in Nigeria have done the country harm more than any other thing else. Little wonder you hardly heard of impactful findings, discoveries, theories and all the likes you hear of in developed academic communities.
The Industry and Academics
Today in many academic communities in Nigeria, it is becoming almost true that the industries are far ahead of the Universities and their curriculum. One would ordinarily expects as it was that the universities were set up to primarily produce manpower and go on to release documents and information from quality research that helps industries grow and improve practice as it is the centre for knowledge, innovation and inventions from where society takes from. However, in my field to be specific, what we do in the industry is years ahead of what the universities are doing and have to offer. It would have been a good recommendation to scrap some programmes in the university so that learners can go to the industries to do apprenticeship as the knowledge from the university have no place in the industries.
A Striving in the Right Direction
Seeing how weak and short of intellectuality the academic community especially in my area and field was, I had reasoned with my friends that some academics will wake up one day and discovered that the university have grown far ahead of them. This was because some of them are heavily involved in se?x-for-gra2de, money for grades, lack the will and push to write a good personal and conceptual work. Everyone were into co-writing; a student or a junior academic write, and you add your name. This was very embarrassing to me but unfortunately, that was the practice.
I knew that this would change one day. In 2018 upward, I had started a campaign for plagiarism. I argued that plagiarism is the only impetus authors have to do a good work. Where there are no plagiarism checks, what is the impetus you are giving to the bright minds to do a good job since the university allows anything that is presented before it?
I also argued that plagiarism check should be introduced in the undergraduate assignments, seminars and projects. In this way, you have a good build up to an academic community that is sound and based on knowledge and intellectuality with so much of individual concepts contributed to the community and not what you have now where everyone are so much in for what others have written.
I also criticized the writing format of the faculties that since it was merely in place for partial fulfilment of demanded requirements, it is difficult for students to infuse their concepts into the system. The criticism goes on and on all in a bid to find a better way to improve the academic community through individual intellectual contributions.
It was in late 2021 through early 2022 that I heard that lecturer’s papers were being tested for plagiarism in the Niger Delta University. All the works of lecturers from their very beginning were brought back and tested and many returned for possible adjustments. I guess those lecturers I talked about that they will just wake up one day and discover that the university have left them behind must have found a fulfilment in those words in the recent developments of plagiarism checks. The information met me well with great joy.
As the Niger Delta University (NDU) continues to grow, I believe the works of undergraduates will be tested for plagiarism. These are not new practices but current global practices. Inform, educate and introduce these things bit by bit and the students will align. This will stop students from copying since the current quality of students we have are of mere copying quality. Many NDU graduates are abroad now crying back for plagiarism and are undergoing pains of NDU’s lack of plagiarism checks in their undergraduate studies.
A Concern for Lack of Impact
Unless for well known lecturers who have established themselves through good writing and introduction of concepts into the community, what you will always find amongst lecturers’ publications are embarrassing papers that offends intellectual sensibilities. Due to this, I quickly stopped buying textbooks written by lecturers. I quickly go through the table of contents to see the weight of the book upon which I decide to buy or not. Although this caused face-off with several persons most times resulting in calls from various quarters, I understood that soothing my intellectual mind is of utmost importance to me.
Requirements rather than Intellectuality
Academic papers are now mostly based on requirements and not intellectuality. So as a young scholar, you are often bent to think like the teachers/community, do what you are asked to do and not that idea in your mind which is your contribution to the community. In this regard, learning therefore is no longer learner-based but teacher/institution requirement-based. This is a very big fault of the university that thinks it knows it all whereas, some of its teachings and curriculum are years behind some industry requirements.
Universities should focus on students, not themselves. During my undergraduate, there were several concepts I was writing about but they won’t be allowed in a project. Then in my Master’s degree programme, I felt there were other important aspects of research dimensions which were not included in the requirements that I used, but they were all scrapped. I used ETHICAL CONSIDERATION of a research. Ethical consideration helps the university to consider if the research topic will offend any person, institution, etc. The university have to check for the ethical background of the work before it is approved and conducted. But it was scrapped. It was of no relevance to the lecturers. These are the issues; that the learners have no input in the Nigerian University system. The learner is a robot conditioned to do what he is asked to do.
Disparity between Academic Papers and Societal Needs
If you were asked; have you ever seen any paper from a Nigerian university that changed the way society or a particular field addressed a particular problem? Your answer may be NO, or probably had a very insignificant cases compared to what the universities should be doing. There seemed to be a huge disparity between what the university is teaching and what the society/industries needs.
To me, I see academic papers as they are – merely as requirements to grow/upgrade – and nothing more. They are merely written for others who wants to write to also see plenitude of materials to pick from. Academic materials are no longer written with a particular problem in society in sight with a view to help the less knowledgeable members having such challenge to use such paper to resolve their problems.
To this extent, authors don’t usually bother to be intellectual and conceptual in their papers. What I usually see is merely mixture of text to form a material. That is why lecturers can tell a student to write on a topic, sleep, wake up and get his name attached to an already plagiarised material and published. However, lets thank God that with the introduction of plagiarism checks for lecturer’s works, there may be more papers in the future that are intellectual based and contains much of author’s original idea than in the past.
Academic papers in the Nigerian system are becoming mainly focused on requirements to graduate, get promotion and the likes. Moreover, the local university community focused mainly on teachers’/institutional requirements with less intellectual contributions from the learners. Hence, the university lack the intellectual contributions of the learners – revolving with same educators’ mostly plagiarized contents each session.
The basic requirement as an intellectual community – requiring documents of intellectual repute from members of the community are largely missing. Because of this, plagiarism rose to its highest level with very low attention to the development of concepts, assertions, postulates, theoretical development in various existing fields and creation of new ones. Very largely, the university community is no longer attuned to the needs of the industry while it claimed to be producing man-power for same industries. This has brought the relevance of the university degree to the modern world into questions.
To ensure that academic papers are geared towards soundness, relevance, contributions to society, theoretical and conceptual, university management must look into the following areas:
- Proper plagiarism checks: Any academic community where plagiarism checks are not applied to all its works, such community will witness low intellectuals who contribute to the intellectual wellbeing of such community. Such a community is a mere joke. Consequently, it is imperative to check all materials produced by all and sundry to push everyone to hardwork.
- Undergraduates, from the time of admission must be given proper plagiarism orientation. Their 100 level first semester assignments should be focused on how to develop plagiarism proofed works so that by second semester, they already have a good background on plagiarism works. This is not new. It is the standard world over. All we need to do is bring our people to this standard of thinking.
- Requirements must be adjusted. Teaching should be learner-based and not teacher/institution-based. Focus on what the learner knows and develop it. There is so much the institution is missing.
- Project/thesis format must be flexible. Researchers must be given the room to write from their own intent and volition. Requirements must include a piece of knowledge from researchers irrespective of the field and topic.
- The university should create a platform where other forms of writing from the intellectuals can be published especially social media short posts, to reach the whole community and beyond. Such platform will attract people to write about concepts which where hitherto left within them unattended and unpublished.
- Introduction of author’s concept in a paper. These days, educators just write for promotion purposes only. No drive, not intellectual push. Just for the promotion. Due to this, papers no longer carry weight. This is why the phrase “mere academic papers” was derived from. Academic papers are now used to describe anything of less value or worthless or without power. Hence, the community authority should request for author’s concept in a paper. The author’s concept is that intellectual push for the paper. What actually led you to write? Are you just writing for writing sake or something pushed you? That author’s concept is what readers look for and benefit from the material as the authors’ contribution to the intellectual community.
- Emphasis should be laid on worth/quality and not quantity. No one should be expected to bring a book with hundreds of pages when the required knowledge is missing. Rather, a paper should be conjured and put together based on the intellectual capacity and details available to the author. The intent to copy text from others so as to meet up with voluminous books should be discouraged. However, books of just few pages with very high impact should be encouraged.
- Writing for Google: Educators should be taught how to write for Google. This is because writing for Google helps scholars to identify modern and relevant issues/topics people are searching for. It also helps scholars to know how best to write to keep readers reading. There are numerous dimensions of knowledge in writing for Google. Because you want people to read your material, because you want your material to rank first, you put in a lot of effort to make your work different and top-notch. This will push scholars to write piece of works that are interesting, captivating and enchanting – a deviation from the academic-only requirement norms.
- Most academic papers are not properly publicized. Educators should write on concepts that they would be proud of. This will engender them to push these materials in their social media pages, profiles and platforms to reach more persons. The social media world is waiting for academics to present it what they know but this is lacking as you hardly see lecturers posting their contents online. The norm of publishing in foreign journals and outlets should be discouraged. Rather, attention should be focused on what we can do within us here.