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womanWhy do Students Plagiarise?

Plagiarism in education is a concept that covers a wide variety of activities involved in academic writing and other forms of assessment. These actions could include the deliberate theft of the work of others and/or the inaccurate use of citations in a piece of coursework. Not all plagiarism is deliberate though, because through a lack of ability, unintentional plagiarism can occur. Given the diverse nature of plagiarism it is worth looking at the reasons why students plagiarise.

Reasons for plagiarism

Unable to find information

A lack of research skills, for example; they do not know how search for information via the Library Catalogue or find information in electronic journals available from the Library web pages. Students may resort to searching internet search engines or more easily accessible web sites such as Wikipedia or even Facebook.

Unaware of the need to evaluate resources they find

Students may find sources of information but they lack the knowledge of how to question the quality of those resources and their relevance for their work.

A lack of understanding, about correct paraphrasing

Paraphrasing the writing of others is an acquired skill that needs practice to develop. It involves understanding the key points of a text, putting them into your own words and appropriately citing the source of information. 

A lack of understanding about what they are expected to produce

Students lack clarity about what is required to be assessed in a piece of coursework. Students must grasp what their tutors expect by understanding the difference between an essay, a report, or a critique, for example.

Poor note taking

Taking notes in lectures needs to be done accurately. It is easy to mix up material that is quoted,or forget to record a full reference, thus leaving them with the risk of plagiarising work of others. If you have to record different sources of information make sure that you code these appropriately.

Lack of understanding about the referencing style required

If your qualification involves the study of different disciplines then you will need to be clear about the punctuation and formats each referencing system requires. Psychology requires the use of APA (American Psychological Association), History the MLA or numeric style whereas Social Science subjects require a Harvard Style.

Lack of understanding of the rights of authors and publishers

Acknowledgment of information used is an important part of academic work, as it shows the tutor that their student has read a variety of sources of information. Although electronic media has enabled greater freedom of access than before, it does mean that copyright or intellectual property rights should not be ignored where they are in force.

Lack of understanding about what is common knowledge

Just what is appropriate for one group of readers may not be the case for others. So students have to recognise the need to reference a fact or an opinion if they are unsure whether these are common knowledge.

Poor Time Management Skills

Students lack the skills to manage their research and writing time for an assignment and resort to copy and pasting material without citing and referencing.

Pressure from family and competition from peers

Increasingly the introduction of University Fees and higher unemployment amongst graduates has led students to believe that education is simply a commodity to be purchased, and not gained successfully by studying and learning. They may see this as a motivating factor to deliberately plagiarise the work of others particularly if they view the internet as a resource to copy from.

Differences in cultural understanding about plagiarism

In some cultures copying the words of a teacher is the greatest way of acknowledging their expertise. This is particularly the case with some Asian students and this contrasts with the beliefs of western culture where a person's words belong to their own identity. This explains why such behaviour may be prevalent with some students and underlines the value of adequate support being given to students who have to make this transition.