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Developing good academic practice
Developing good academic practice

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1.5 When does poor academic practice become a major problem?

Poor academic practice becomes a major problem when there is an intent to cheat – to try to pass off someone else’s work as your own. Here’s a simple definition.

Plagiarism is using the work of other people to gain some form of benefit without formally acknowledging that the work came from someone else.

Plagiarism always involves three main ‘players’:

  • The plagiarist – the person who plagiarises. Sometimes, through ignorance or negligence, a plagiarist may not realise (or may claim not to realise) that they are plagiarising. However, we expect and assume that, apart from students studying courses very early in their study career, all students will be fully aware of the plagiarism procedures and issues. We therefore consider that ‘intention’ is present in all plagiarism or cases of poor academic practice. It is no defence to claim ignorance if you are an experienced student.
  • The victim – the person who is plagiarised. Sometimes the person being plagiarised is fully aware of the other person plagiarising and actively cooperates in the process by colluding, either freely or by coercion. In this case the ‘victim’ is deemed to be directly involved in the plagiarism, and, depending on circumstances, may themselves be subject to a penalty.
  • The monitor – the person who discovers and deals with the plagiarism. Plagiarism is detected and monitored at the Open University by sophisticated methods, including electronic analysis. It is always handled with strict formal procedures by an experienced monitoring team. Various factors are taken into account, including level of study, any previous plagiarism offences and the nature of any apparent collusion.

This resource provides guidance on developing academic integrity and helps you to avoid poor academic practice.

Universities cannot always distinguish between poor academic practice (accidental plagiarism) and deliberate cheating (plagiarism). The Open University takes the position that without evidence to the contrary, all plagiarism is a result of deliberate cheating. As such, it is important to develop good academic practice to avoid the accusation of plagiarism and any resulting penalty.