Plagiarism by college or university students: the difficulty and some proposals

​The issue: Plagiarism, the use of other individuals text or ideas while not giving the proper recognition, is simply one part of the overall problem of cheating. Reported proof along with a few investigations propose that student cheating is far more extensive than typically acknowledged. Whilst examinations are believed to thwart cheating more than essays, actually the level of cheating on tests may be higher for any other assessment approach.)

Most cheating is undiscovered. For each pupil caught plagiarising, it is almost guaranteed that many more plagiarisers escape detection.

Removal of plagiarism by discovery and punishment requires a lot of people and in the end close to impossible. One article suggests that, to discover plagiarism, each essay has to be read four times. But this only picks up replicating from printed sources. Copying from other essays, or fake authorship of assignments, is seldom noticeable or provable.
Furthermore, the policing procedure for plagiarism is perhaps counterproductive. Pupils must be inspired to model themselves on the finest thinkers and, in the process, to think critically and be original. This is hardly feasible if they are frequently being checked for intentional or inadvertent plagiarism.

Decreasing plagiarism

The recommendations here are intended not to ‘eliminate’ plagiarism but alternatively to create the sort of educational conditions where it is rare because both pupils and staff require the ultimate standards in one another. The purpose should be to develop a lifestyle of respect for high quality work.


There has to be much more specific debate of what is meant by plagiarism and what is suitable acknowledgment in particular circumstances. This will include comprehensive illustrations in subject notes, discussion in lessons and posts in student magazines.

The vast majority of pupils do treat plagiarism very seriously. As reported by one study, the significant issues so far as students are bothered are "fairness to writers and other students, the responsibility of students to do independent work, and regard for ownership rights."

What is deemed applicable recognition is dependent upon the topic and circumstance. Adding footnotes to a music score is not a common practice! Departments and, occasionally, even individual lecturers may wish to produce their own recommendations.

Teachers and pupils must realize that the educational culture, with its recognition of authorship, is at difference with many other parts of society. Unacknowledged copying is allowed by some college professors. Misrepresentation of authorship is standard practice amongst politicians, corporate executives and public sector administrators, who seldom give proper recognition to their speechwriters and junior staff.


​​In many subject areas, plagiarism can be reduced by effective style of essay questions, or pupil appraisal generally. For instance, assignment questions can be posed which request the student to refer to recently available paper or magazine articles, draw on personal experiences, or make links between theory and illustration not found in the literary works. This prompts students to do their own work without having any particular worry about plagiarism. By contrast, offering long lists of possible assignment topics, little changed from year to year, is a prescription for replicating from printed sources or previous assignments.

Acceptance of collaboration

In certain topics, pupils frequently work together on papers, and this may be an important part of the educational system. If this is the case, it is better to inspire pupils to acknowledge their collaboration, for example by providing for group submissions alongside signed declarations allocating credit for work completed.

Acknowledgment by lecturers

Academics can offer a good example for students by providing relevant credit for suggestions in their lectures and subject reports. When academics are more explicit about the source for instance, problems or approaches, this also helps students build a better understanding of the position of their lecturers in the development and communication of knowledge.
Learning by resubmission: Most students who plagiarise from printed sources don't perceive that it is wrong. But then, most pupils understand that having another student write their essay is wrong. When lecturers take away marks or fail an essay on account of plagiarism, the student is penalised but may well not determine how to do it correctly.

An optional strategy is to permit, in some scenarios, resubmission without penalty. Under this system, submissions that contain plagiarism can be re-written with the only changes being adequate citation marks, footnotes, etc. The altered submission would then be marked by the original level. This way,, the pupil gains expertise in presenting proper acknowledgments. Naturally, a paper that is completely plagiarised would, when submitted again, be entirely made up of quotes, and would receive little credit!

An understanding of plagiarism

Plagiarism can be seen as a mortal sin. Supposed to take place only occasionally and warranting the most severe penalties when found. The reality is different: plagiarism in mild forms is very common. Plagiarism needs to be recognized as a simple problem of learning how to give acknowledgments in the method expected in a scholarly environment. The main focus should be on teaching, not penalties for misunderstanding.

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