Student plagiarism


When Professor at Keele University in the early 60s,  Antony Flew had his own way of tackling plagiarism in the essays that students read out to him. Seemingly absorbed in his own work behind a desk, he would reach behind to rows of anonymous, brown paper-covered books, select one, turn the pages, run his finger down the text until the plagiarised passage finished, and then return the book and his attention to his desk.
– Letter, Guardian 29 April, 2010

The internet has changed the situation, though not the underlying problem that using someone else’s words or ideas without acknowledgement is theft.

Learning the rules about acknowledging sources

Students beginning higher education courses today are likely to have been used to cutting and pasting material from the internet in their school work.  Has your provider explained about the importance of acknowledging sources in work at higher education level?

All students should be taught the rules for acknowledging the work of others by including references to it in their written work and should be given a copy of these rules, which should also be easy to find on the institution’s website.

It should be made clear how plagiarism is judged in assessing joint or team-work and in examining doctoral theses which have been completed in close collaboration with academic researchers as part of a group research project.

Students should also be made aware of the institution’s plagiarism policy and reminded regularly of its implications.  It should make it clear whether the provider treats plagiarism as intellectual dishonesty or as theft.

The underlying principles of the provider’s plagiarism policy should be agreed at an appropriate level in the institution’s rule-making hierarchy. This policy should  be easy to find on the institution’s website.

It should also be made clear what sanctions are applied when students are found guilty of plagiarism.

  • do they include lowering marks?
  • do they include voiding whole modules or examination papers?
  • are there any circumstances in which students are allowed to mitigate their offence by rewriting and adding references before work is re-assessed?