Plagiarism in higher education: an integrated approach: workshop handout



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Plagiarism in higher education: an integrated approach:

workshop handout

(March 05)
Jenny Moon (J.Moon@Exeter.ac.uk)
This handout is designed for a day workshop with staff. The workshop is based on an amalgamation of my own work and that of Jude Carroll of Oxford Brookes University. Specific references to Carroll (2004) apply to Jude’s workshop notes. Mostly I have modified them. .A principle reference for the workshop is Jude’s book: A Handbook on Deterring Plagiarism in Higher Education Jude Carroll, Oxford, OCSLD (2002).
1. Some points to think about
a) An integrated approach

Managing plagiarism is not just a matter of detective games of detection or of designing harsh enough punishment when offenders have been found – it requires an approach that integrated and holistic. The approach needs to include:



  • an open upholding of values that do not tolerate plagiarism and cheating;

  • realistic awareness of plagiarism and cheating behaviours (eg how much there is likely to be!);

  • ongoing help and support for students with the knowledge/skills needed for appropriate citation etc;

  • a will to deter plagiarism by making it difficult through module design (particularly assessment);

  • insight into what to look for in detecting plagiarism and cheating behaviours

  • clear and workable methods of dealing with plagiarisers and cheats when detected;

  • an open-ness to learn from all of the above and modify until the system works.

b) Some general points



  • The original meaning of the word plagiarism is kidnapping!

  • Knowing what plagiarism is, is not the same as knowing how to avoid it (Carroll (2004)

  • Thinking that you know what plagiarism is may not mean that you really know when it comes to the fine distinctions of right and wrong in a student’s work.

  • The fear of plagiarism in institutions may do more harm to the nature and quality of academic work than the plagiarism itself.

  • It is easier to spot misconduct among international students and they tend to incur harder penalties.

  • It is not unusual for heads of two departments in the same institution to make these very different observations: ‘We only see the tip of the iceberg and that is bad enough’ and ‘No – not a problem here – probably more of a problem in computing or subjects like that’. Who is being most realistic!

  • A largish UK HEI should be prepared to deal with 1500 cases of plagiarism a year. That is the extent of these behaviours as implied by current research.

  • Research has consistently shown that staff seriously underestimate the percentage of students who plagiarise.



2. Take a look…..!

a) Look at e-bay under ‘essays’.

Look http://www.essaycrawler.com and at http://www.study-area/student. Sites change regularly. The following lists others: http://www.coastal.edu/library/mills2.htm
b) An example

Eg 1: Verbatim from e-bay Nov 2004 (JC)


‘Have you been slacking off all year? Need a dissy fast and can’t be arsed doin it?

Fully completed 6000 word dissy with reference list under the topic ‘Gender differences in anxiety in sport’. Covers all background research on anxiety, very useful!!!!!

The dissertation was given a 2nd Class mark, excellent if you have missed lectures all year and your tutor won’t believe you if you hand in a 1st class paper purchased on the internet!

Genuine mistakes included along with graphs, tables and all the files needed for a complete dissy. All in Microsoft word, just hand it in as it is or modify to suit, you decide’. ULTIMATE LAZY PERSON’S SOLUTION Wish I had bought one instead of actually doin it!




3. Defining plagiarism and other forms of academic misconduct

a) There is a range of behaviours that could be referred to as ‘cheating’ – or ‘academic

misconduct’. Which of the following are actually plagiarism? The list is modified from from Franklyn-Stokes and Newstead (1995) and Newstead et al (1996) and Carroll (2004)


  • paraphrasing material from another source without acknowledging the author

  • inventing data

  • re-submission of work when original work is expected (own and others)

  • use of translation services from foreign language materials (eg textbook in other language)

  • allowing coursework to be copied by another student

  • fraudulent seeking of extensions, extenuating circumstances etc

  • library ‘misconduct’, making it difficult for other students to get required books

  • copying material for coursework from a book/other publication without acknowledging the source

  • copying another student’s work with his/her knowledge

  • doing another student’s coursework for him / her

  • copying from a neighbour during an examination without the person realising

  • using another’s whole piece of work and presenting as one’s own

  • holding onto / mis-shelving library books so that others cannot get them

  • making up references or attributions

  • purchase of academic material from the web for submission as one’s own

  • purchase of academic material from the web to read or as a guide to subject matter

  • altering data to strengthen a case

  • gaining prior knowledge of an examination or test

  • submitting jointly written coursework as individual work

  • paying someone to write coursework for you (ghost-writing)

  • not contributing fairly to group work that is submitted for the group (to which you belong)

  • downloading from the web and not citing the origin of the material

  • lying about medical / other factors to achieve special considerations/leeway

  • taking unauthorised material into an exam

  • using verbatim the lecture notes from a previous institution for an essay (no attribution)

The relevant definitions for academic misconduct, plagiarism and collusion are in the glossary at the end of this paper. Some of the behaviours listed above are ‘cheating’ behaviours – which more properly might be called ‘academic misconduct’. The definition of academic misconduct includes plagiarism and, in turn, plagiarism includes the process of collusion. To be clear about where collaboration stops and collusion starts, it is useful also to have a definition of collaboration as well (see glossary).



(And take two moments of reality: take a moment of honest with yourself – how many of these behaviours have you committed? Maybe none – but…maybe….. How many times have you seen these behaviours and passed them by?

4. An exercise in identifying and distinguishing forms of academic misconduct (modified from Carroll, 2004)


  • Peter uses the library to find the relevant literature to the essay that he has to write, then, using one of the essay sites, buys a similar essay and integrates the material that he has read.




  • Kirsty has a project that involves seeking the opinion of teachers and parents on children’s behavioural responses to violence on television. She can find 5 parents and 2 teachers, but decides to make up the views for the missing 3.




  • Patrick had an essay to prepare. He meticulously read in the library, but was not sure from which books which ideas had come. He did not reference the material in the essay but put in a bibliography saying that he had drawn material from the identified sources




  • Juan and Pablo live in the same house. They are on the same course and hence have to put in the same assignments. Juan’s English is not too good and hence he tends to be slow in getting his work done and this time he is really behind. Pablo suggests that the class is large and they have different tutors so no-one will notice if Juan uses some of his (Pablo’s) material.




  • Emma was writing up notes on an experiment when she found that her friend, who had done the module last year, had done the same experiment. Her friend suggested that Emma could read through what she had written but she warned Emma not to copy it as that would be collusion. Without her friend knowing, Emma did copy part of it and presented it as her own.




  • Joseph did a Foundation degree and then shifted to a university to do his final year. He has an essay to do in his level 3 studies that matches well a handout that was prepared by one of his level 2 lecturers. He submits that as his essay. What he does not know is that the lecturer had taken over the notes of another lecturer who was off that day.




  • Jeanette has an essay to write in theology. She is not very good at writing and has developed a style whereby she copies down appropriate quotations (correctly citing them) and then paraphrases the content of the quotation in the next paragraph. She steers then meaning towards another quotation which she quotes and cites and then paraphrases.




  • Ella integrates a chunk of handout material in her essay, altering some words in it and splitting it with a section of her own writing.




  • Simon, Julie and Pete live are following the same module. They have a piece of work to do and get together to discuss it. They talk about the content and decide each to follow up two references and then to meet again to talk about what they have found. This reduces the volume of reading they will have to do. They meet again, listen to each other’s descriptions and write notes and then write the essay separately. They reference the material correctly, whether it is what they have read or what they have heard described.




  • Mohammed is writing his Master’s dissertation. He uses a basic text in which there are many relevant references to the work of others. He would like to go back to original sources, but is short of time. He writes refers to the work of the others directly without indicating that he has only read another’s account of them.




  • Samual is somewhat disorganised and omits to cite references for material that he has quoted. It was a mistake.


5. Why do students use cheating and plagiarism? – (based on Carroll, (2004)

‘I just had too much to do’

Time management is one of the main issues for students these days. They take on too much work or have to juggle family and sometimes career demands with study. Why should they know how to manage time suddenly?
‘I could not keep up’

It comes down to time management again. The modular system often means that there are many assignments to come in at the same time and often students are not able to work in advance for them. There is not always an overview of the programme to check the demands on students at any one time.


‘I heard that our tutor has not noticed that others have copied chunks from the web. Why can I not get away with it too?’

Tutor has a reputation for not taking action for obvious infringement. He just mentioned it to the student and says ‘don’t do it again’.

Tutor does not seem interested in student effort.
‘Last years students said that they had the same essay and offered me it. I just used it as guidance’

Annually repeated assessment tasks enable this to happen.


‘I have paid a lot for this course. I have to succeed. It is expected of me’

Pressure from parents or cultural expectations, career demands.

Being under pressure financially.
‘They said lots of things about plagiarism at the beginning of the programme. I don’t really understand how to avoid plagiarism’.

Lack of clarity by institution, department, tutor.

Lack of experience of academic writing.

Lack of basic understanding about what is considered to be ‘wrong’ with plagiarism.

Different cultural norms of behaviour (eg between school and higher education).
‘I just cannot do this and yet I’ve got to get it in’

Lazy student

Demands of course too great.

Unclear instructions for assessment task.


‘Everyone else seems to get away with this, why shouldn’t I?’

Students relates to culture of ‘getting away with it’ among colleagues.

Student wants to challenge authority.

Student knows that penalties are relatively small in relation to personal advantages.




6. Are you really clear where the fine line is between plagiarism and appropriate writing?

Where do you draw the line? Based on Carroll (2004) and Swales and Freak (1994)


1. Copying a paragraph. No acknowledgement given

2. Making small changes in a copied paragraph. No acknowledgement given

3. Making small changes in a copied paragraph. Source is listed in reference list but not in the text.

4. Composing a paragraph without quotation marks that mixes phrases from the original document with student’s added words or paraphrasing. Acknowledgement in text and in the reference list.

5. Referring to a piece of work that is discussed in another text. There is in-text acknowledgement and the text is listed in the references – but not the original piece of work.

6. Writing a paragraph that is based broadly on material in a text. You cite the in-text reference and list the work in the reference list.

7. Quoting word for word, a paragraph in block format with quotation marks. It is cited within the text and in the reference list.

9. How bad is the situation? A quick look at research (based partly on Carroll, 2002)


a) Research in this area is difficult. If you look at cases detected, you are probably working on the tip of the iceberg. If you ask staff, their observations are from ‘it is a vast problem’ to ‘we don’t have here…’. There are discipline differences too. If you ask students about the practices of which they are aware, often they are cagey. If you ask them about their personal behaviour, you rely on honesty. Most of the research has involved students talking about their own behaviour.
b) There are few British studies but ….American research has repeatedly shown that more than half of university students indulge in some form of cheating behaviour during their undergraduate years and the British studies suggerst that the figure is not markedly different in the United Kingdom’ (Newstead, Franklyn-Stokes and Armstead, 1996) This was among the earliest of the UK studies.
c) Since then in 1999, a US study showed that 8.5 students admitted to more than 25% of a piece of work was unattributed cut and paste. In 2003 a similar study suggested that the figure had risen to 41%. When staff and their own students are asked about plagiarism, in most studies, staff underestimate the incidence of plagiarism to which their students actually admit.
d) Carroll estimates that a reasonably large UK university should expect to be able to cope with around 1500 cases of plagiarism per year.
e) There is much more concern about students cutting and pasting from the web but Carroll (2002) suggests that the evidence is that the problem is still largely one of copying from books, journals and coursenotes without referencing. There are different patterns in different disciplines.
f) There are relatively few students who set out to defraud in a substantial way, regularly purchasing their coursework from the internet – but the numbers are increasing as expertise grows (Carroll 2002).
g) The number of paper mills, people who can be hired to write essays, or cheat sites is growing. Some of these sites suggest ways in which students can personalise essays. Some say that they do not support plagiarism and that their offering is for guidance. Some students use the sites in order to ‘get a start’ for an essay.
h) The issue of international students: statistics suggest that more international students plagiarise. One reason for their predominance may be that plagiarism is more evident if poor English is suddenly interrupted with a piece of good English. The explanation is often that they do it because it is an acceptable part of their culture. This may partly be the case, but most of them are aware of the rules against plagiarism. We go back to the adage that knowing about plagiarism is the same as being able to manage it and they often need more help than they get. Furthermore, there may be more temptation to plagiarise if your English is poor.

10. What do we need to tell students about the plagiarism and the ‘rules’ of the academic game?


a) I have said that there is more damage that arises from fear of plagiarism than from plagiarism itself. How do we deal with it in order to reduce the damage and to discourage the process?
I have seen a handbook from a good English programme, level 2 that suggested that students should not try to use any original thinking in their essays because of the danger of plagiarism…. Is that what we want? I have seen students in terror because they do not know what to write or how to write it and their tutors have talked about plagiarism as if the offence means automatic exclusion from the programme.
Not plagiarising is a rule of the academic game and students need to learn the rules. But, again as I have said, it is a matter of learning how not to plagiarise, not just that it is against the rules. One can argue that everything that we know is derived from the work of others, but we cannot constantly cite others in every sentence that we utter…What are the rules?
b) Some hints and tips

  • Think of working with students in two stages:

  • giving information about what plagiarism is

  • work with the students on the skills that they need in order not to plagiarise by accident or on purpose.

  • These issues do not need to be taught in this order

  • Just talking to students at induction is not enough

  • The information and skills work is needed in an ongoing way – at each level in their programme

  • They need information alongside their actual work in their disciplines

  • Do not talk of plagiarism as something to be feared….this will do more harm than good

  • Anyone who works with students should tow the same line (staff development implications)

  • A workshop format is needed, not just a talk…students need to work with examples

  • Do not rely on writing material about plagiarism in a handbook and expecting students to read it. At a later stage, they can always claim that they did not understand it.

  • You may need sets of local rules – for example, for dealing with situations in which there are many non-native speakers. Here you may need to be more explicit on the editing side – what is and is not acceptable. You may decide that this issue differs as you expect better use of language from the students.

  • Whenever you are asking students to work in groups, you will need to reinforce the rules about collusion and put the ideas into context.

c) Do you allow leniency to start with?

You could decide that you will let students make some mistakes about referencing that you will then correct, or you can decide to treat plagiarism as wrong – and penalise it straight away. Carroll (2002) indicates that the latter view is preferable. If you laying down rules about plagiarism and then you say – but I will be lenient to start with, it reduces the power of the idea that it is unacceptable. It also makes the situation less clear for staff and students.

11. Working with students 1: giving information about what plagiarism is – some ideas of how to cover this (the structure is based on Carroll, 2002)


a) Some of the problems that students have in understanding

  • ‘What does ‘other people’s work’ mean – how do I know the difference between ‘common knowledge’ and ‘other people’s work?

  • ‘Is it all right to put down my own thoughts?’

  • ‘How much do I need to change this to make it my own work? I do not know how much change I can make’

  • ‘The trouble with this is that the text says exactly what I need to say – why write it any differently?’

  • ‘What happens when I write down what the lecturer has said? Anyway, where did the lecturer get her ideas? Where does it stop?’


b) Talk about academic conventions. The following ideas may help:

those who work in higher education and research can be seen as working in a community – the academic community. This has a set of rules to which it works. Secondary schools work more or less to the same rules but in a less tight manner.


The academic conventions treat new ideas like property that someone owns. One reason for this is that there are rewards and awards (grants, prizes, qualifications, degrees etc) given to people for the quality of their ideas and therefore we can think of use of unattributed ideas for the gain of another person as a form of theft.
Since knowledge is built by adding ideas together, modifying them, rejecting some and so on, it is essential that we can use and work with the ideas of others. We can regard the process as ‘borrowing’ the ideas but the academic convention is that we must say where the ideas have come from and show how another person can find them. There is another set of reasons why it is necessary to show how others can find the information (see below).
There are various words for the manner in which we indicate that the ideas were generated by someone else – a reference, citation, acknowledgement. We talk about ‘attributing work’ to someone.
It is assumed that people within the system abide by these rules (or ‘play to these rules’)
c) Common knowledge:

Not all ideas are considered to belong to others. Most of what we know is ‘common knowledge’. It is knowledge that is in ‘everyday’ use, or is in the common domain or it is knowledge about which we could say that most people agree. It is the sort that is found in reference books - encyclopedias or dictionaries. These are ideas that we do not need to reference.


d) There is another reason for referencing work.

This reason will make greater sense as students progress though their undergraduate studies. To some extent at the early stage of undergraduate study, they have to accept this reason without completely understanding it.


When we work with knowledge, as well as common knowledge, we using existing ideas that others have put forward (ie that need referencing) and we add to them, modify them or sometimes reject them (I call this ‘manipulation of knowledge’). For this process, we use ‘tools of manipulation of knowledge’, such as description, analysis, synthesis, evaluation, explanation and so on.
Using these various tools for the manipulation of knowledge, we say what we want to say. For students this is likely to be in the context of an answer to a question, in an essay, report, dissertation or thesis. In these forms of written work, we explain things, show that we understand something, or make a case for one thing or way of thinking rather than another. This is what we would call an argument, a term commonly used in higher education. Also in a thesis or dissertation, we might be demonstrating that we have developed new knowledge.
In the academic world, as in schools, it is conventional to make judgements of the quality of someone’s work by evaluating it. Teachers or tutors assess work and give feedback on it to students, but in more sophisticated levels of research, new ideas, in the form of books and journal articles, are evaluated by peers who are usually other researchers in the same area. An important aspect of the judgement of quality of a piece of work is on the basis of the qualities of the ideas that have been the building blocks of the new piece of work. Sometimes it is appropriate to call this ‘evidence’. It is therefore vital to indicate the origin of the ideas by providing the references. One sign of the quality of work is often that there is a good length list of references. In other words, the writer has considered a good range of ideas in the development of the material.
e) Define plagiarism.

Just give a definition without mentioning the difficulties in definition. Add that copying the work of another (usually a student) and handing it in as your own work is also wrong (and then define collusion), even though at times they may be asked to prepare material together (define collaboration).


f) Tell students where they can get more help.

It is worth acknowledging that they may not have taken in the detail of what has been said, but will need the information when they have an assignment to do. The information may be in handbooks, on the institutional web site, they can ask a tutor, learning support staff – and so on. A special handout may be produced.


When this information is passed on, it is likely to be more effective if students can be asked to do an exercise based on the definitions of plagiarism. Such an exercise might use examples such as those earlier in this handout (case studies written in a paragraph – with some as plagiarism, some collusion, and some acceptable).
g) Non-native speakers of English may need some extra help

They will need help on what writing is acceptable and non-acceptable. You may decide that this is support that can work on a sliding scale, allowing more support early on in their work and less later. It depends on the criteria associated with correct language that you set in assessment.


h) Other information that may be of help: there are plenty of web sites with information for students about plagiarism – but make sure that the message is the same as the one that you would want to purvey.

12. Working with students 2: skills (based on Carroll, 2002)


a) Some notes:

This material needs to be supported by many examples (see Carroll 2002). The examples should be developed into exercises so students have to ‘do’ something, rather than just look at it. However, the availability of a printed ‘guide’ that they can keep beside them for future reference is a good idea as well.

What students need to be able to do in order to write within academic conventions without plagiarising are:


  • differentiate material that needs attribution from that that does not need attribution;

  • use in-text referencing

  • write an appropriate reference list and understand the difference between this and a bibliography

  • work appropriately with quotations:

  • manage the relating of others’ ideas in written work

  • they need to know what does not require citation

  • they need to be able to weave together material from several sources

This material can be covered in the context of study skills in special sessions about avoidance of plagiarism, or without plagiarism mentioned. The best place, however, is in the context of teaching writing skills. Since writing skills need to increase to meet the changing complexity at each level in higher education, writing skills need to be taught at each level


b) Differentiate material that needs attribution from that that does not need attribution;

Students could be asked to do exercises as those earlier in this handout, or that described in the previous section where they have to decide on whether case studies constitute plagiarism or not. They need to know and to be able to recognise what does not require citation -

- common knowledge

- facts that are generally agreed, or that are common to a variety of sources

- their personal ideas, suggestions etc
c) Use in-text referencing – this is a matter of explaining the elements of writing a reference.

Students need to know that there are different conventions, any of which are correct in their context. The following must be marked with a citation:

direct quotations;

situations in which reference is made to a reference already cited in a text;

references to web-based material;

paraphrases or precis of others’ quotations;

summaries of others’ ideas (ie where it is not common knowledge);

statistics, figures, charts, tables, pictures graphs etc.

They need to know how to deal with references within edited texts;
d) Write an appropriate reference list and understand the difference between this and a bibliography. Students need to be able to organise and lay out a reference list or bibliography
e) Work appropriately with quotations: this involves

- referencing the direct quotation correctly

- follow local conventions such as the amount of quotation, the format of it,

- ways of abbreviating quotation by selecting only some parts and so on.


f) Manage the relating of others’ ideas in written work: this involves

  • paraphrasing skills where a general picture of information is needed;

  • precis skills where they need information that is very close to the meaning of the text

  • the ability to relate one idea to another (accumulating ideas as evidence, comparing etc)


13 Dealing with plagiarism in an integrated manner - reiteration

a) A reiteration:

This is the reiteration of an important general point and relates to material that has been covered, and to material that we cover from hereon. Managing plagiarism is not just a matter of detective games of detection or of designing harsh enough punishment when offenders have been found – it requires an approach that integrated and holistic. It needs to include:


  • an open upholding of values that do not tolerate plagiarism and cheating;

  • realistic awareness of plagiarism and cheating behaviours (eg how much there is likely to be!);

  • ongoing help and support for students with the knowledge / skills needed for appropriate citation etc;

  • a will to deter plagiarism by making it difficult through module design (particularly assessment);

  • insight into what to look for in detecting plagiarism and cheating behaviours

  • clear and workable methods of dealing with plagiarisers and cheats when detected;

  • an open-ness to learn from all of the above and modify until the system works.

14 Designing programmes to deter plagiarisers (inspired by Carroll, 2002)


a) An exercise

You are a student at Camomile University, who does not want to do any more work than you have to. You are well practiced in the art of plagiarism and other forms of academic misconduct and have a network of friends who do the same. You choose your modules according to how easily you can ‘get by’ in them without doing much work. You have your day job to worry about and evenings are for drinking aren’t they. You and your friends look at each module, from which you can choose, in detail to see what opportunities they give you for non working. What do you look at? Included in your choice must be a module with laboratory work. What are you looking for?

Essays that…….. Tutors who…………..

Reports that……. Theses that………

Group-work in which……….. Examinations in which………

Other assessed work in which….

Other aspects of the teaching and assessment arrangement that allow for easy plagiarism

Other aspect of academic work that can maximise your chances…..




b) Ways in which the design of a module or programme can allow the functioning of plagiarisers
Essays, theses etc

  • Straight-forward titles can be purchased or located easily;

  • More complex titles – can still be written by a ghost writer – but not so easy if it is specific and related to activities of the module itself;

  • If the same title is given year after year, the students can ask previous students for their work or for strong guidance from them;

  • Since the work is done out of sight, there are opportunities to download material;

  • When the essays are not seen before they are handed in (eg in a draft state) they can more easily be downloaded or purchased;

  • Students may be asked to choose an essay title – this makes it much easier to purchase an essay or have one written;

  • Essays that are routinely returned to students ensure that they are available for future plagiarisers;

  • Essays are handed into an unsupervised situation. They can be ‘borrowed’.

Lab reports



  • When the same experiments are used each year, the previous year students can be asked for their reports, their experimental results, and their workings of the results;

Group work



  • Group work in which students are put in groups and asked to work together to provide a joint report for which they are given the same mark – allows students to free-load;

  • The group work is done out of sight of the lecturer;

  • There is no means by which students have to justify their contribution – ie no peer assessment;

  • The assessment takes no notice of the group’s process while working – only of the final product

Some more general points. Plagiarism is facilitated also when -



  • There are no in class assessments – class tests etc;

  • There is plenty of time in which to do assessment tasks;

  • There is no close checking of work in progress;

  • There are situations where a large number of part time tutors mark student material;

  • Where there is no second marking

  • Modules where students do not become ‘known’ to tutors

14. Some more general ways of avoiding plagiarism in assessment situations (some material drawn from Carroll 2002)


a) Some additional techniques

Clearly one can derive one set of methods of avoiding plagiarism by reversing the situations listed above. This list provides some more proactive methods:




  • Material that requires personal reflection or comment on a process tends to deter plagiarism

  • Meta-essays – where the students are required under supervision to write a piece on how they approached the essay / report / dissertation;

  • Viva’s or interviews about the subject matter;

  • Ask students to hand in a draft copy of the final essay / report (etc). This is initialed (not marked necessarily);

  • Ask students to sign a disclaimer indicating that work is their own and that they have neither used the work of a fellow student, nor allowed their work to be copied. This form could also include a brief set of ‘rules’ of academic conduct as a reminder – and to ensure that students cannot argue that they had not heard the rules / did not understand.

  • Use ‘in class’ tests sometimes.

  • Talk with students about plagiarism as a process that is as unfair to those who work hard as it is to the institution in which it occurs.

  • Make it clear that you do check for plagiarism or collusion – eg using the JISC service or other means and that you care about plagiarism.

15 The detection of plagiarism – some general points


a) Plagiarism is dealt with in of civil law and therefore the balance of probabilities is the standard of proof - the best case will be evidence of the original. However you do not have to find it – you just need strong reasons as to why you think that what you are seeing is not the work of the student as is implied.

b) Some possible signs of plagiarism (based on Hinchliffe (1998) and Harris (2001) cited in Carroll (2002))

  • urls in odd places

  • oddities in layout, font etc

  • spelling system not usual or inconsistent (eg American)

  • bibliography or references citing material that is not locally available or consistently prior to a certain date or that are not consistent with the work itself

  • inconsistencies in writing style – language, grammar etc eg between introduction and body of essay etc

  • unusual use of jargon

  • essays in which the subject matter is coherent but does not directly address the title

  • work that is out of character for this student

  • work that is very similar to that of other students

  • reference lists or bibliographies where several styles of citation are present

  • odd uses of Typex!

c) Other signs that involve action on teacher’s part



  • at interview the student cannot describe the manner of attaining the component information, where she found references etc

  • on a viva, student does not appear to have the knowledge implied by the work handed in

  • the student cannot produce notes, draft copies etc that would indicate that she has gone through the process of constructing the work handed in as her own.

16 Electronic means of detection


a) Some general points

This material is mainly derived from a rewrite of sections of Detect (Carroll, 2004) - . In the past six years a number of dedicated electronic methods of detection of collusion or plagiarism have been developed. The can be used proactively to check for plagiarism or reactively once the misconduct is suspected. They are useful also as a means of warning students that their work can or may be scruitinised. Disadvantages are sometimes cost in money and cost in time. Electronic means of detection also require the work to be submitted in a suitable format for the service being used. There are also always some forms of plagiarism that they will not detect.


b) Advanced Search on Google

This is a reactive method used with one document at a time and used generally when there are suspicions that material is plagiarised. Carroll (2002) suggests that a search is best done with a phrase of around 10 words. Advanced Search is found to the right of the search box. The exact words are put in. In any sources that are listed, the ‘cache’ button will enable the display of the words highlighted within the document that is selected for view. Advanced search on Google relies on exact matches. The student only has to change a word in the phrase and it will not be detectable by this method.


c) Investigation of the authorship of a document

Details of authorship of a document can be located by clicking on ‘properties’ on the ‘File’ button. This gives various information about authorship and, under ‘statistics’, edit time for the piece of work. Useful evidence may be picked up from this information.


d) Checking for collusion with CopyCatch Gold

CopyCatch is proactive. It can be used to check for the likelihood of collusion. At present CopyCatch Gold is available free for academics in the UK (http://www.copycatchgold.com). CopyCatch works on the principle of matching similar words. It assumes a division of words into two groups – those that are common ‘function’ words such as ‘and’, ‘the’ and a ‘lexical’ set of words that are specialised and that do not occur in all writing. The matching is done on the basis of the latter.
The documents are put onto one computer and a percentage of similarity is set. On the programme, 60% is a reasonable threshold of similarity. In a few minutes (depending on the number of pieces of work and their length) the programme provides an indication of any pairs of documents in which the similarity is exceeded. At this point, academic judgement is required to determine the nature of the overlap and whether it is or is not likely to demonstrate collusion.
e) Screening for similarities between written work and the web

There is a widely used service offered through the Plagiarism Advisory Service. The service has been free of charge up to 2005. A fee is now charged that is based on the size of the institution. The site is www.jiscpas.ac.uk and the links should be followed for detection. It is tool developed by a US company and is called ‘Turnitin’. It has been in wide use in the UK for four years.
The documents from the class are loaded and a class list is made. The result is available rapidly and it colour codes the report for each student according to the amount of material that is derived from web sources – more that 75% is red, more than 50% is blue and more than 25% is green. Sites where the similar material is found are listed and side by side layout allows comparison of the documents. This is not evidence of plagiarism unless the similar material is not cited.
‘Turnitin’ searches for evidence of similar text in three established and up-to-date databases. It is efficient and helpful in dealing with plagiarism but it will not identify situations where students translate material from another language before they submit it, and they will not detect ghost writing. Carroll (2004) reports situations in which students have been asked to run their own work through it, submitting the report with their work and thereby learning about citation and paraphrasing.

17 Dealing with Offenders


a) Some sanctions for confirmed cases of plagiarism (based on list from Jude Carroll)–

Note – some of these punishments may not be possible under some internal regulations


First level- Discussion but no record is kept + student corrects original work, which is marked as normal

1. Discussion with tutor

2. Discussion with more senior person (eg head of department)
Second level – Discussion + record is kept + student corrects work + original work is then marked as normal

3. Discussion with tutor + record is kept + student corrects work and the original work is marked as normal

4.Discussion with more senior person +record is kept + student corrects work and the original work is marked as normal

5. Discussion + record is kept+ plagiarised section removed from original work, which is then marked as normal

6. Discussion + record is kept+ original work is given a reduced mark.

7. Discussion + record is kept+ original work is given 0%


Third level- Discussion with tutor or more senior person + record is kept + student is given new task

8. Discussion + record is kept + the new task is submitted and marked as normal

9. Discussion + record is kept + the new task is submitted and marked to a reduced mark

10.Discussion + record is kept + the new task is submitted and marked to minimum mark


Fourth level – Discussion with tutor and more senior person + record is kept + there are other sanctions that affect the student’s programme

11.Discussion + record is kept + the mark of 0% is given for the module in which the plagiarism occurred

12.Discussion + record is kept + there is a reduction of the student’s final award (eg undergraduate diploma in stead of honours)

13.The student is removed from that programme

14. The student is removed from the higher education institution

b) Some general principles ( based on Carroll 2004)




  • A coherent, well-considered and holistic institutional approach is needed in order to work effectively with plagiarism

  • The institution needs to be seen to support and encourage individual action by academics;

  • Cases of suspected plagiarism should be treated –

  • fairly

  • consistently and

  • in a transparent manner

c) Criteria-based punishment


The following criteria (Carroll, 2002, 2004) can be used as a basis for judgement of the punishment for all cases of plagiarism. In this way, the students will be judged on the same bases and the punishment can be explained in a consistent manner.


  • The extent of the plagiarism – the amount copied, the closeness to the original, whether it included results or just text (ie the nature of the material).

  • The stage of the student in the programme – whether the student is in level 1 and naïve, or whether she is in level 3 at which point she should know the rules. This will include consideration of the student’s background - how likely it is that she is aware of her actions – or that the actions have been deliberate.

  • Any record of prior plagiarism (if such records have been kept).

  • Conventions of the discipline

The consequences of the punishment for the student need to be taken into account. For some students, a consequence of some forms of punishment for plagiarism could be that they are barred from a particular profession because some professional bodies demand to know of any cases of academic misconduct. This may seem to be too great a punishment if the case behaviour is relatively minor.


d) How would you punish the following?
These are a selection of the ‘guilty’ cases that were considered earlier with some more detail added:


  • Peter uses the library to find the relevant literature to the essay that he has to write, then, using one of the essay sites, buys a similar essay and integrates the material that he has read. He is in level 2. He is a mature student who pleads that he has been under a lot of pressure at home – and he has been struggling on the programme (Politics). There was some suggestion that he had colluded with another student from the year ahead on a previous essay but nothing was proven.




  • Kirsty is on a BEd programme. She has a project that involves seeking the opinion of teachers and parents on children’s behavioural responses to violence on television. She can find 5 parents and 2 teachers, but decides to make up the views for the missing 3. She is aged 19 and is in a level 1 in a biology programme. She says that she panicked because she had not got the results and needed to hand the work in. She says that they often faked results at school




  • Juan and Pablo live in the same house. They are on the same programme (medicine) and hence have to put in the same assignments. Juan’s English is not too good and hence he tends to be slow in getting his work done and this time he is really behind. It emerges that Pablo suggested that Juan should use some of his (Pablo’s) material and this occurred. These students are at level 2. They both say that they cannot recall being warned about collusion and plagiarism at all. They say that they know that other friends help each other.




  • Emma was writing up notes on an experiment when she found that her friend, who had done the module last year, had done the same experiment. Her friend suggested that Emma could read through what she had written but she warned Emma not to copy it as that would be collusion. Without her friend knowing, Emma did copy part of it (about 20%) and presented it as her own. How should Emma and her friend be treated. Emma’s friend is in level 3 and Emma is in level 2.



  • Ella downloads a chunk of material from the internet, altering some words in it and splitting it up with a section of her own writing. She is in level 1 on a professional programme in which all cases of academic misconduct should be notified to the professional body.




  • Mohammed is writing his Master’s dissertation (Geography). He uses a basic text in which there are many relevant references to the work of others. He would like to go back to original sources, but is short of time. He writes refers to the work of the others directly without indicating that he has only read another’s account of them.




  • Samuel is somewhat disorganised and omits to cite references for material that he has quoted. He says that it was a mistake and he simply forgot to put in the reference. He was given a warning about plagiarism in level 1 when he copied material from the internet. Then he said that he did not know that he should not do this. He was given a warning. He is in level 3

18 What staff can do (based on Carroll 2004)




  • develop programmes so that they reduce opportunities for plagairism;

  • get to know the students (where possible”);

  • teach students about the rules of academic conduct and the skills they need – and ensure that they have learnt this material;

  • do not be tempted to ignore cases of plagiarism;

  • talk about plagiarism with students as a way in which they are cheated by their colleagues;

  • use detection methods openly;

  • be part of institutional efforts to deter plagiarism and to sort out means of punishment.

19..What institutions can do (based on Carroll, 2004)




  • be openly committed to identifying and dealing with plagiarism and realistic as to its probable extent;

  • encourage the appropriate development of programmes;

  • staff and educational development on all aspects of plagiarism;

  • develop well considered policy and modify it until it is ‘right’;

  • promote academic values among staff and students;

  • draw on specialised knowledge or techniques (eg electronic detection) where relevant.

Glossary





  • Academic misconduct – abuse of academic conventions unfairly to one’s own advantage. The term includes examination cheating, plagiarism and collusion




  • Acknowledgement - recognition that work has been the product of the work of another identified person




  • Bibliography – usually a list of material that provides further information on the present work




  • Cheating – taking advantage of or manipulating a situation unfairly for ones own gain (as academic misconduct)




  • Citation – the process of acknowledging or attributing an idea/quotation to another by providing information about the source of the other work




  • Collaboration or cooperation – openly working with another / others for mutual benefit with no deception of others




  • Collusion - is the passing off of another’s work as one’s own for one’s own benefit and in order to deceive another. While in the usual definition of plagiarism, the owner of the work does not knowingly allow the use of her work, in a case of collusion, the owner of the work knows of its use and works with the other towards deception of a third party. Collusion is a form of plagiarism




  • In-text citation / reference – as citation
  • Plagiarism - The passing off of another’s work – intentionally or unintentionally - as one’s own for one’s own benefit. (based on Moon, 1998 and Carroll, 2004)





  • Reference list – a list of referenced sources of work that has been cited in the present work


References and Bibliography




Carroll, J (2002)

A Handbook for Deterring Plagiarism in Higher Education, Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development







Carroll, J (2004)

From PowerPoint slides and handouts at session on plagiarism at University of Portsmouth, Nov (2004)







Evans J (2000)

The new plagiarism in higher education: from selection to reflection http://www.warwick.ac.uk /ETS/interactions/vol14no2/evans/html

Franklyn-Stokes, A, Newstead, S (1995)


Undergraduate cheating: who does what and why? Studies in Higher Education, 20 (2) 159 – 72

Harris, R (2001)


The Plagiarism Handbook Los Angeles Pryczak Publishing cited in Carrol, J (2002) A Handbook for Deterring Plagiarism in Higher Education, Oxford, OSCLD

Hinchcliffe (1998)


Cut and paste plagiarism: preventing, detecting and tracking on line plagiarism http://www.alexia.lis.uiuc.edu/







Newstead, S, Franklyn-Stokes, A, Armstead, P (1996)


Individual differences in student cheating, J Ed Psych 88 (2) 229 – 241







Moon, J (1998)

Cheating and plagiarism in undergraduate education, UcoSDA Briefing Paper 57







Swales, J and Freak, C (1994)

Academic Writing for Graduate Students, Ann Arbour, University of Michigan (cited in Carrol, J (2002) A Handbook for Deterring Plagiarism in Higher Education, Oxford, OCSLD





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