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Copycat: why some students plagiarise

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With pressure from academic deadlines and constraints on time it’s easy to fall into the plagiarism trap and seek what you might think to be the easy option. But copying someone else’s work really isn’t worth it, and here’s why …

Plagiarism is a serious academic offence, some may consider it tantamount to committing fraud and it comes with heavy penalties if you are found to be guilty.

As a minimum penalty, students found guilty of plagiarism will be awarded  a 0 mark and must resubmit their work. At some universities, plagiarism offences carry a mandatory suspension and for repeat offenders, expulsion. For nursing students, plagiarism also raises fitness to practice issues as it is a form of fraud.

Why do students plagarise?

Accidental plagarism

This is where students think they are referring to an author’s work but are actually quoting it directly. This is mainly due to a lack of understanding around how to properly reference.

  • How can you avoid it? Familarise yourself with your university referencing guidelines. And be sure to take up any offers of writing skills workshops to help get you into the swing of writing essays.

Pressured plagarism

Sometimes the pressures of balancing academic studies and life can become too much. You may feel as though you are drowning and have nowhere to turn, so in a similar way to accidental plagiarism, you might resort to cutting and pasting chunks of text from websites or friend’s assignments. Although pressured, this is still plagiarism, and depending on the circumstances, may carry a heavy penalty such as zero mark and resit with a note against your student record. 

  • How can you avoid it? If you find yourself falling into a spiral of despair, contact your lecturer as soon as possible to let them know how you’re feeling. You may have grounds for an extension depending on the pressures you are under or your lecturer may be able to give you some pointers which will help. If you are offered the opportunity to submit a draft assignment it is a good idea to take this up and you will get valuable feedback for the final assignment.

Deliberate plagiarism

Some students set out to plagiarise or submit fraudulent work. There are many “essay writing services” now available both on the internet and some that advertise near university campuses. But beware, most pre-written essays will not meet the specific course outcomes and this will alert your lecturer that something is wrong.

  • How can you avoid it? Have a think about what you’re trying to achieve from your time studying. Would you feel satisfied if you left your course knowing as little as you did when you started? What would it feel like to try your best and recieve a mark that reflects your hard work?

The real thing

The chances are, that if you’re tempted to plagiarise you’re probably not feeling that great about yourself or your studies. Instead of running the risk of being found out, and being excluded from your course, book in an appointment with your tutor or lecturer and be honest about the way you’re feeling. They are there to help and will have talked to countless other students in a simillar position to you. Don’t go it alone, stick to the real thing.

Karen Strickland is a lecturer and teaching fellow at Edinburgh Napier University.


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