A overview into Plagiarism and why students Plagiarise

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Most students approach their assignments with academic integrity. Plagiarism has been found to be only weakly associated with cheating (Caruana, Ramaseshan, & Ewing, 2000). Howard (2000) divides plagiarism into three levels of seriousness: fraud, non-attribution due to a lack of understanding of the conventions, and patch-writing. The latter is a mosaic style of constructing an essay from different, correctly referenced parts that some associate with plagiarism as it is an amalgamation of other people's ideas. It is a common form of poor academic writing that does not strictly fall within the UTS definition of academic misconduct. Copying or buying papers to submit as a student's own work are clear cases of fraud but are also the least common forms of plagiarism.

While there is a variety of interpretations of plagiarism the procedures to deal with academic misconduct have necessitated a clear definition relating to students' work at UTS. Plagiarism is broadly defined as "presenting someone else's ideas or work without acknowledging the source" (Coursework Assessment Policy and Procedures: 24). There are a number of penalties for breaching this policy ranging from receiving zero for a subject to suspension from a course or expulsion from the University (UTS rules 5.1 to 5.50).


Caruana, A., Ramaseshan, B., & Ewing, M. T. (2000). The effect of anomie on academic dishonesty honesty among university students. The International Journal of Educational Management, 14(1), 23-37.

Why students plagiarise

Even those students not intending to cheat can inadvertently plagiarise. Wilhoit (1994) argues that few students come to university understanding the rules of academic writing. Poor notetaking, for example, is the most common reason given for inadvertent plagiarism. Howard (1995) argues that some forms of inadvertent plagiarism are learning strategies adopted by students who have not been taught how to make proper intellectual use of resources.

Studies of student plagiarism have found clear differences between students' and teachers' views of cheating. Generally students do not think that minor forms of cheating are wrong (Franklyn-Strokes & Newstead, 1995). Students plagiarise to cope with the demands of studying and the pressure to get a good grade (Ashworth, Bannister & Thorne, 1997: 188). Zobel & Hamilton (2002) found that financial problems were among the most common reasons given for committing plagiarism. Students who plagiarise have a tendency to over-commit themselves to other activities and then plagiarise out of desperation. Zobel & Hamilton found that there are also cultural issues such as respect for authority that can lead to unintentional plagiarism.

The most common factors influencing intentional plagiarism are the stress to obtain good grades, ineffective institutional deterrents and condoning teachers (Davis, Grover, Becker, & McGregor, 1992). When the assignment is considered to be of little consequence and others in the class are cheating or the institution does not make plagiarism a high priority then students are more likely to plagiarise (Ashworth et al., 1997). Zobel & Hamilton (2002) found that when students find themselves with difficulties they preferred to turn to their friends for help rather than to university structures like time extensions or study skill support.

Academic dishonesty is lower where there is a high perception of being caught (McCabe, Trevino & Butterfield, 2001). There is clearly an institutional responsibility to detect and deal with plagiarism. Yet, Zobel and Hamilton (2002) find that departments are often inadequately prepared to deal with plagiarism. They argue that the first step in preventing plagiarism is arriving at staff agreement on what constitutes plagiarism and the appropriate penalties for plagiarists.


Ashworth, P., Bannister, P., & Thorne, P. (1997). Guilty in whose eyes? University students' perceptions of cheating and plagiarism in academic work and assessment. Studies in Higher Education, 22, 187-203.

Davis, S. F., Grover, C. A., Becker, A. H., & McGregor, L. N. (1992). Academic Dishonesty. Teaching of Psychology, 19(1), 16-20.

Franklyn-Strokes, A., & Newstead, S. E. (1995). Undergraduate cheating. Studies in Higher Education, 20(2), 159-172.

Howard, R. M. (1995). Plagiarisms, Authorships and the Academic Death Penalty. College English, 57(7), 788-806.

McCabe, D. L., Trevino, L. K., & Butterfield, K. D. (2001). Dishonesty in academic environments. Journal of Higher Education, 72(1), 29-45.

Wilhoit, S. (1994). Helping students avoid plagiarism. College Teaching, 42(4), 161-165.

Zobel, J., & Hamilton, M. (2002). Managing Student Plagiarism in Large Academic Departments. Australian University Review, 45(2), 23-30.

Define and discuss plagiarism

Students often come to university without clearly understanding the conventions of academic writing. Most students will need to be taught the difference between paraphrasing and plagiarism. Brown & Howell (2001) found that warnings were necessary but warnings alone had no effect on students' awareness of plagiarism. They conclude that providing information about plagiarism is an effective way of changing perceptions of how seriously plagiarism breaches the guidelines. Some strategies for defining and discussing plagiarism are:

Clearly explain what constitutes plagiarism and provide adequate examples and opportunities to learn the appropriate practices.

Advice to students on what constitutes plagiarism and on good academic practices can be found in the UTS Coursework Assessment Policy and Procedures manual, available online at


and the UTS Handbook, available online at


Discuss hypothetical cases

Students can find it difficult to understand how the rules and procedures apply to their own situation. In class discussion of examples of plagiarism, provide a straightforward illustration of appropriate and inappropriate writing.

Print statements offering examples of academic writing for the discipline

Each discipline has slightly different conventions to attributing others' work and these are rarely discussed in general guides to good student writing. Plagiarism can only be avoided by accurate referencing. A referencing guide can be found online at


Publicise warnings outlining penalties

Many lecturers prefer to deal with minor infringements themselves. In more serious breaches of the academic misconduct rules the responsible academic officer has a range of penalties that they can apply. These are published in the UTS calendar at



Brown, V. J., & Howell, M. E. (2001). The Efficacy of Policy Statements on Plagiarism: Do they change students' views? Research in Higher Education, 42(1), 103-118.

Ensure Students Have The Appropriate Skills

Wilhoit (1994) argues that as plagiarism is such a complex concept students do not always recognise when using a writer's ideas is plagiarism. There are a wide range of resources to help students improve their writing skills and thereby avoid plagiarism. Two that are specifically intended for UTS students are the English Language Study Skills Assistance (ELSSA) Centre


and the BELL Program


Two student writing guides written for UTS students are:

Morley-Warner, T. (2000). Academic Writing is ... A guide to academic writing in a university context. Sydney: Centre for Research and Education in the Arts.

Faculty of Business (1999). Guide to Writing Assignments. Sydney: Faculty of Business

Have students look at a plagiarised text and its sources to rewrite it to eliminate plagiarism.

To assist students in understanding how these resources can be applied in your subject provide them with examples of a number of versions of the same passage and show them what is acceptable.

Download an example for you to distribute to your students.

Provide written feedback on drafts of assignments.

Feedback helps students to improve and prevents them from making the same mistakes again. UTS students see high quality feedback as consisting of a clear criteria against which to judge the comments, comments that are detailed and related to specific aspects of their work, and comments that are improvement focused.

Teach note-taking.

Poor note-taking is the primary reason students give for inadvertent plagiarism. Effective note-making from a written text includes keeping appropriate bibliographic details with page numbers and distinguishing between paraphrased and quoted material.

The Learning Centre at UNSW has a series of excellent online resourced including a simple method for making notes written sources available at


Invite ELSSA Centre staff into your class to discuss academic writing.

There are many reasons why students may not use sources and/or reference according to the academic conventions of their fields of study. Frequently, unintentional cases of plagiarizing are due to students' limited skills in:

- writing English

- taking and making notes

- summarising

- paraphrasing

- discussing critically &analysing

- citing, referencing and writing bibliographies

- reading/interpreting assignment tasks

- managing contributions to group work

- managing time, workloads and stress

- misunderstanding cultural conventions

Some resources and notes to address these causes of plagiarism are included in this "resource package". Further assistance (workshops, individual assistance, credit subject, etc...) for staff and/or students is available from the:

ELSSA Centre, [email protected],

City Campus, level 18, tower building, phone 9514 2327,

Kuring-gai campus, room 2.522, phone 9514 5160

Provide collaboration guidelines that outline what each student is expected to contribute.

Subject outlines describe to the students what is in your subject, including the nature and extent of collaboration required. The students receive the subject outline in the first week of the semester and the details should only change in exceptional circumstances.

Your Faculty may have its own subject outline template or you can download one from the IML web site at


Provide proofreading guides.

As well as spelling, grammar and sentence structure students need to ensure that their references are accurate and formatted in the appropriate style. A guide to student proofreading is available online at


Describe how to cite electronic sources.

There is a tendency to view materials on the Internet as being in the public domain and therefore do not require referencing. Conventions for many popular online formats can be found at:



Wilhoit, S. (1994). Helping students avoid plagiarism. College Teaching, 42(4), 161-165.

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Design Assignments To Minimise Plagiarism

Zobel and Hamilton (2002) argue that too often students are being asked to do a task that a lot of other students have already done. Maximising variation in assignments limits the scope for copying. Some suggestions are to:

- vary assignments each year

- have multiple assessment tasks

- relate assessment to individual life circumstances and experiences

- ask for explanatory information where there is only small scope for variation

- view draft material

- set assessment tasks that use material that can not be easily copied.

Jude Carroll has produced a guide to good practice which is available online at



Zobel, J., & Hamilton, M. (2002). Managing Student Plagiarism in Large Academic Departments. Australian University Review, 45(2), 23-30.

Strategies For Detecting Plagiarism

Not all students will be amenable to strategies to discourage plagiarism (Whitley and Keith-Spiegel, 2002). Some students intentionally cheat and a number of good software packages are now available to scan electronically-submitted assignments.

UTS has a license to the online plagiarism detection software Turnitin.com which is accessed through UTSOnline. Turnitin assignments can be set up in any of the UTSOnline content areas for staff and students to submit digital assignments for scanning. The instructor can nominate for students to have access to their own originality reports and allow resubmission of assignments. A completed report is usually in your class assignment inbox within 5 minutes. It is then up to the lecturer to determine for themselves whether any copied material is plagiarised.

The use of online plagiarism detection software allows you to collect the evidence required by your Subject Coordinator and Responsible Academic Officer. Alternative means of collecting the extent to which the work submitted is a verbatim copy of another work and the level of acknowledgement of the work of others are:

- Copy suspicious phrases into http://www.google.com.au

- Require multiple drafts of essays to be submitted at the same time

- Require students to submit photocopies of source material

- Spot check passages against the source

- Retain copies of assignments

- Watch for fluctuations in writing style or very high quality phrasing

- Compare assignments between groups in subjects with multiple markers

The UTS Students' Association is concerned with the punitive use of electronic plagiarism detection software. It is good practice to advise students that plagiarism detection software is available and might be used by lecturers to check for plagiarism. Staff are also encouraged to explore the possibilities in the software for providing feedback to students that will improve their academic practices. For example, turnitin.com has an option for students to submit their work for scanning in which they have 24 hours to modify their text and ensure that all reference material is correctly attributed.