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Plagiarism Essay

Decent Essays
Plagiarism regularly makes the headlines and universities are under pressure to tackle the problem decisively.

Plagiarism involves using someone else’s words or ideas without acknowledging the source. It can take multiple forms, from cutting and pasting a patchwork of unreferenced texts to buying texts from paper mills.

Crucially, it also includes the kinds of writing in which students sloppily pull together various ideas without due attention to academic referencing norms.

The problem is that institutions’ reactions to plagiarism, through policy and disciplinary structures, often lack nuance. Universities often don’t seek to understand what leads students to plagiarise; they tend not to distinguish between different forms of the
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At many institutions, students must include a cover page with all assignments stating that the work is their own. This adds perjury to the crime of plagiarism if they are caught. Some South African universities make it compulsory for an academic to immediately institute full disciplinary processes if he even suspects plagiarism.

These tough measures make sense in an era when universities are increasingly risk averse. But this stern, one-size-fits-all approach fails to take intention into account. It doesn’t address the university’s own responsibility to develop students’ competence in writing.

This means that an opportunity for educational engagement is missed and the problem of plagiarism, whatever its motivation, is ignored.

Technology to teach, not police

In some universities, students are encouraged to use Turnitin or other text-matching software before they submit assignments to their lecturers.

This software is an excellent tool for helping novice writers to develop their work. A high percentage of matched text indicates that the student has not yet taken sufficient ownership of the concepts and ideas she is using. It might indicate an excessive but entirely legitimate reliance on direct quotes. It also allows the student to check whether the matched text has been properly referenced.

In a number of universities, students must
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