Grading research papers is an inherent part of a teaching career. Whether it’s an internship report, dissertation, thesis or any other writing that needs to be graded, academic integrity is equally important. Indeed, to avoid plagiarism, all duplicated content must be clearly indicated, at a minimum, with quotation marks and the original author mentioned.
As a teacher, how should you react when these copyright guidelines are not followed in your students’ writing? What should be done when faced with a suspected case of plagiarism?
Alleviate or validate suspicions of plagiarism
Be clear about what plagiarism is: definitions and forms
In general, plagiarism is defined as borrowing an idea, quotation, or image without mentioning the original author.
INSA (National Institute of Applied Sciences) of Lyon defines plagiarism as follows:
👉 “[plagiarism] consists of appropriating someone else’s original work (an excerpt of text or speech, an illustration, etc.) without citing it or mentioning the sources,
👉 suggesting that you are the author of a piece of work that you actually borrowed from someone else,
👉 failing to cite the authors correctly,
👉 not identifying which passages have been borrowed and inserted into your own creation.”
Plagiarism can take many forms: paraphrasing without citing an author, using non-copyright-free images and graphics, slideshows without any source, translations without citing an author, not respecting citation standards, poorly constructed bibliography… Check out the related articles below:
Provide evidence of copied content: analysis with Magister
To be certain that plagiarism is proven, you have a powerful tool: Magister. Magister similarity-detection software shows you duplicate content, whether it comes from the internet or another document from your institution or from a Compilatio partner institution. Click here to learn more about how document analysis works with Magister.
Analysing a document with Magister gives you three essential pieces of information, saving considerable time in grading an assignment that you suspect contains plagiarism:
👉 A percentage of similarities
👉 A list of detected external sources
👉 A side-by-side view, which allows for a precise comparison between the text of the analysed document and the text of the detected source
To reiterate, Magister does not indicate a rate of plagiarism but a rate of similarities. Indeed, Compilatio does not make any judgment on the quality of a document: it simply indicates an objective overall percentage of similarities. Therefore, a citation will rightly be identified as a passage that is “similar” to a source. It is up to the reader/grader to fine-tune this percentage of similarities to arrive at a percentage of plagiarism.
Contemplate disciplinary actions suitable for cheating
Comply with your institution’s regulatory framework
The “acceptable” rate of plagiarism may differ across institutions, disciplines and even courses or requested assignments. Each secondary and higher-education institution has internal regulations that define its organisation and operation. These regulations define the rights and obligations of each member of the educational community, students and teachers.
This policy should indicate which procedure you should follow in case of suspected plagiarism, as well as guidance on disciplinary actions.
For example, the anti-plagiarism charter of Grenoble Alpes University defines plagiarism and outlines the procedure to follow in the event of plagiarism.
👉 Firstly, the charter clearly describes what constitutes plagiarism and clarifies that this applies to “all documents written by students and teachers, researchers and professors in connection with course and research activities.”
👉 Building upon this common understanding, teachers are instructed to use similarity-detection software to identify instances of unattributed borrowed passages or sections of copied/pasted text in a student’s academic work.
👉 Then, if the existence of plagiarism is confirmed in a student’s assignment, the charter specifies that “plagiarists shall be brought before the qualified disciplinary unit and potential sanctions may even include permanent exclusion from any higher learning institution,” with the potential for subsequent legal proceedings as appropriate.
Refer to your administration if there is no regulation on plagiarism at your school
Many educational institutions are still in denial and refuse to admit that plagiarism is a common practice among their students. As a result, the regulatory framework regarding plagiarism is sometimes non-existent or incomplete. However, it is the communication of such a framework that helps students understand what behaviours to adopt.
In order to prevent plagiarism, it is crucial to be proactive. By way of comparison, preventive action for road safety demonstrates all these benefits.
“To explain Compilatio’s approach, we will compare it to the practices of road safety. You will see that both of these are centred around a common objective: responsible behaviour.” Check out Compilatio’s article “Rules of the road, Plagiarism prevention | 1 goal: responsible behaviour“:
As a teacher, ask your school’s administration to introduce rules on plagiarism! The next time a student plagiarises may serve as a great opportunity to update the regulatory framework to establish a common framework, both for teachers and for students.
Confront the student plagiarist
In all cases, the student must be heard. This will be beneficial for the student, for you, for the administration and for other students.
👉 Beneficial for the student: The student must have the opportunity to explain themself. They must face their responsibilities and understand why it is important to follow best practices for citations and writing.
👉 Beneficial for you as a teacher: Your school administration supports you in ensuring that exams and diplomas retain their value thanks to academic integrity. Choosing the appropriate punishment is not necessarily your responsibility.
👉 Beneficial for the administration: The institution must be able to understand the intention and reason behind this plagiarism in order to prevent it and protect the school. Drawing from actual cases of plagiarism, the administration will be able to bolster and refine its anti-plagiarism policy. Ultimately, the institution’s reputation will be preserved.
👉 Beneficial for other students: Other students must understand the seriousness of these issues. The case of plagiarism will be perceived as either permissive or as a deterrent, depending on what disciplinary action is chosen.
A hearing with the student should seek to measure the seriousness of what has occurred:
Create an educational opportunity whether a case of plagiarism is proven or unproven
Regardless whether plagiarism is proven, it is important that teachers and students understand what plagiarism is. By combining practice, theory and pedagogy, awareness of plagiarism is a powerful tool for enhancing academic integrity.
“When possible, the teacher can turn an alarming situation into a teaching opportunity. How can this be done? This is a time to identify the possible causes of plagiarism and the reasons that push students to resort to this kind of misconduct. This understanding leads to awareness and enables adjustment of teaching methods in order to avoid recurrences. Read the article Compilatio “Student plagiarism: Create an educational learning opportunity“:
To support you in raising awareness and preventing plagiarism, several pedagogical resources are available in your Magister toolbox (with a Magister account): Anti-plagiarism charter, guidelines for disciplinary actions, prevention posters, etc. Compilatio also offers complementary services for all institutions: a turnkey anti-plagiarism Infoplag website and Prevention Questionnaires, for example.
In conclusion, in the event of suspected plagiarism, the first thing to do is to make sure that it indeed consists of plagiarism as laid out at your institution. For this, simply refer to the definition and provide evidence using Magister’s similarity-detection software. Next, you should refer to your school’s regulations or administration. Then, a hearing with the student should allow everyone to understand the circumstances of the offence and guide appropriate disciplinary actions. Finally, all can grow from this whole affair by creating an educational opportunity to prevent plagiarism. The goal is to raise student awareness of copyright and academic integrity.
For further information, here are the sources used:
Informations of INSA (Institut National des Sciences Appliquées) in Lyon, “Prévenir le plagiat”
Compilatio articles used in the text: