Academic integrity is often seen as being inextricably linked to plagiarism which frequently focuses primarily on its detection and the subsequent penalties that may be imposed. However, more recent findings emphasise the need to prevent the incidence of plagiarism, which requires the development of students’ sense of academic integrity (Birks et al., 2020; UCD, 2021).
The European Network for Academic Integrity (ENAI, 2018) offers the following definitions which seek to differentiate the two terms:
“Plagiarism is presenting the work of others as if it were his/her own without proper acknowledgment.”
“Compliance with ethical and professional principles, standards and practices by individuals or institutions in education, research and scholarship.”
Plagiarism is, therefore, only one aspect of the wider concept of academic integrity, which implies behavioural attitudes and practice that are frequently bound up with professional practice and standards.
The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) recently called for UK HEIs to sign up to an Academic Integrity Charter (QAA, 2020b) and Ulster University is now a signatory to this.
- Learn more about QAA's Academic Integrity Charter
Types of Plagiarism
There are many types of plagiarism that may occur and these may range from inadvertent or accidental plagiarism to more deliberate examples, such as contract cheating (Chester, 2001; Amigud & Lancaster, 2019; Turnitin, 2021).
Broadly speaking, the main types of plagiarism that are encountered in higher education are as follows:
Some Indicators of Plagiarism
Why do Students Plagiarise?
Several studies have been carried out to determine the reasons why students plagiarise, all of which indicate a differential between accidental or inadvertent plagiarism and that which is deliberate (Sutton et al., 2014; Selemani et al., 2018).
|Accidental/Inadvertent Plagiarism||Deliberate Plagiarism|
|Misconceptions about what constitutes plagiarism||Poor time management|
|Careless research and/or note-taking methods||Overly demanding schedule and/or competing objectives|
|Lack of understanding of institutional norms and/or expectations||Desire to maintain high grades|
|Fear of failure/pressure to succeed|
|No interest in the subject|
|Perceived lack of interest by teaching staff|
|Belief that they will not get caught|
A more concerning trend is the use of contract cheating where student can commission, for a fee, original work produced for them which they subsequently submit as if it were their own (Lancaster, 2021a). Although this form of commercialized transaction has been in existence for some time – so-called essay mills - its frequency has increased over recent years according to Newton (2018), whose research indicated that “…from 2014 to present the percentage of students admitting to paying someone else to undertake their work was 15.7%, potentially representing 31 million students around the world.”
There are also strong indications that the potential for academic cheating has increased during the recent pandemic, not only as result of increased pressure to succeed that may be felt by students, but also because of more prevalent, and often aggressive marketing, which is sometimes difficult to discern as a purely commercial service. (Lancaster, 2021b).
- View QAA's 'Contracting to Cheat in Higher Education' PDF
Ulster University has a plagiarism policy which identifies the actions that should be taken and the potential penalties incurred by students should plagiarism be suspected.
Plagiarism and Academic Integrity: a prevent-educate-detect approach
One of the ways that we can reduce the instances of plagiarism is to help students understand what plagiarism is and model academic integrity within our own practice.
Designing Out Plagiarism
One way in which we can deter plagiarism is by designing our assessments in such a way that this practice is discouraged. The following are some suggestions that you might find useful:
- View Practical assessment strategies to prevent students from plagiarising PDF
- View Preventing and Designing out Plagiarism PDF by European Network for Academic Integrity
- View Designing out Plagiarism by University of Reading
- View the Academic Integrity workshop presentation recordings here
- Amigud, A. and Lancaster, T. (2019) ‘246 reasons to cheat: An analysis of students’ reasons for seeking to outsource academic work’, Computers & Education, Volume 124, 98-107.
- Birks, M., Mills, J. and Allen, S. (2020) ‘Managing the mutations: academic misconduct in Australia, New Zealand and the UK’, International Journal for Educational Integrity 16, 6 (2020).
- Chester, G. (2001) Plagiarism Detection and Prevention: Final Report on the JISC Electronic Plagiarism Detection Project, JISC.
- Lancaster, T. (2021a) Contract cheating
- Lancaster, T. (2021b) Has the pandemic driven more students to cheat?
- Newton, P. (2018) ‘How Common Is Commercial Contract Cheating in Higher Education and Is It Increasing? A Systematic Review’, Frontiers in Education 3:67.
- QAA (2020a) Contracting to cheat in Higher Education. 2nd edn.
- QAA (2020b): Academic Integrity Charter for UK Higher Education.
- Selemani, A., Chawinga, W. and Dube, G. (2018): Why do postgraduate students commit plagiarism? An empirical study. International Journal of Educational Integrity 14, 7.
- Sutton, A., Taylor, D. and Johnston, C. (2014) A model for exploring student understandings of plagiarism, Journal of Further and Higher Education, 38:1, 129-146.
- Tauginienė, L., Gaižauskaitė, I., Glendinning, I., Kravjar, J., Ojsteršek, M., Ribeiro, L., Odiņeca, T., Marino, F., Cosentino, M. and Sivasubramaniam, S. (2018) Glossary for Academic Integrity. ENAI Report.
- Turnitin (2021): Executive Guide: Plagiarism Spectrum 2.0.
- University College Dublin (2021) : How do I support my students’ academic integrity?