As a student you are probably looking forward to participating in your University course as a way to acquire new skills and knowledge. Perhaps you see your course as a means of learning more about yourself – your strengths, your weaknesses, your learning styles, your opinions and preferences, maybe even your future career pathway. A very small minority of students may see the learning process as merely a series of obstacles to be negotiated on the way to a qualification. Rather than opening themselves up to the full richness of the learning experience, they attempt to get through the whole process as quickly and easily as they can – even if this involves resorting to unfair means (See Appendix A).
Students who use unfair means to gain an advantage over their fellow students aim to cheat the University, to cheat their tutors, to cheat their colleagues and to cheat their current and future employers. Above all they are cheating themselves!
Consider for a moment the following scenarios:
A school teacher falsifies their CV in order to gain an advantage when applying for a new job. The school is unaware of this deception and offers the applicant a job, preferring them over other candidates.
A hospital porter who has always wanted to work in a clinical setting impersonates a junior doctor and becomes involved in the care and treatment of patients. For several months the porter continues their deception relying on a superficial knowledge gained from medical textbooks.
A student at secondary school finds an “essay writing” service available over the Internet. For a fixed fee they obtain an essay for a course assignment. They submit this work as their own and are awarded the highest mark in the class.
A degree student at university, working under time pressures to complete an assignment, copies some sections of material word for word from a key textbook. They cut and paste other sections from the World Wide Web. They receive a borderline pass and they are able to proceed to the second year of study.
Point for Reflection: For each of the above scenarios consider the following:
In what ways does this scenario demonstrate use of deception and unfair means to gain an advantage?
What are the potential short-term and long-term consequences of this deception?
Who is affected by this deception? You will need to think in the widest possible context to answer this question.
Record your brief points of reflection below:
Let us remind ourselves of Scenario 4:
“A degree student at university, working under time pressures to complete an assignment, copies some sections of material word for word from a key textbook. They cut and paste other sections from the World Wide Web. They receive a borderline pass and they are able to proceed to a second year of study”.
T Plagiarism is passing off other peoples’ work as your own, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to your benefit (University of Sheffield, 2005).
his is an example of a particular type of deception called plagiarism. Plagiarism is “passing off others’ work as your own, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to your benefit. The work can include ideas, compositions, designs, images, computer code, and, of course, words” (University of Sheffield, 2005).
Note that, as with many other forms of deception, plagiarism can be either intentionalor unintentional. The main purpose of this introductory booklet is to help you to pursue your studies in a fair and open manner to avoid unintentionally passing off others’ work as your own. In delivering this material, however, completing this booklet will meet a secondary, although equally important objective – it will make it very difficult for students who still resort to plagiarism to plead that they were unaware of what they were doing.
ike other Universities, Sheffield takes a very serious view on plagiarism.
“Any attempt by a student to gain unfair advantage over another student in the completion of an assessment, or to assist someone else to gain an unfair advantage, is cheating. Cheating undermines the standards of the University’s awards and disadvantages those students who have attempted to complete assessments honestly and fairly. It is an offence against the values of the academic community of which students and staff are both part……… The University has a public duty to ensure that the highest standards are maintained….to safeguard both the legitimate interests of its students and the University’s reputation” (University of Sheffield, 2005)..
All tutors are alert to plagiarism when marking. If they encounter a “suspicious” piece of written work they will examine it closely for plagiarism, by comparing to the standard texts, or increasingly by using software specifically designed to detect plagiarised passages of text. Below, we introduce you to one of these tools. In the future, it may become routine University practice to run all student work through such software before marking.