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Developing good academic practice
Developing good academic practice

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6 Why do students plagiarise?

Some students end up plagiarising for a wide variety of reasons – sometimes intentionally, but more often unintentionally. Irrespective of whether they meant to plagiarise or not, it is still a form of inappropriate academic practice and will therefore incur some level of penalty.

Early in your student career it is worth investing time in:

  • developing good note-taking skills;
  • practising writing in your own words;
  • learning how to reference properly;
  • developing time management skills;
  • improving your academic literacy skills;
  • working effectively with others;
  • acknowledging collaborative contributions.

Once you have done this it’s unlikely you will plagiarise, intentionally or unintentionally.

Some of the more common reasons and ‘traps’ that cause students to plagiarise include:

  • poor study skills; e.g. not having the relevant skills and knowledge to study effectively at this level;
  • not understanding what is required by the assignment; e.g. misinterpreting the task or not recognising what they have to do to complete it; poor time management skills, e.g. not leaving enough time to complete assignments, resulting in copying material from other sources to get work in on time;
  • lacking in confidence in their language skills; e.g. feeling that they do not have the skills to allow them to express the ideas in a form that is as good as the source, resulting in their cutting and pasting words and sections from other sources into their assignment;
  • poor note-taking skills; e.g. mixing up their own thoughts and ideas with those taken from others, or cutting and pasting information from other sources and forgetting where these came from but using them almost word-for-word in their own work without acknowledging the original source.

Many students who plagiarise as a result of these and other reasons may not realise what they have done or the severity of their actions until either their tutor points it out to them or they lose marks as a result of inappropriate academic practices.

Less commonly, some students set out to deliberately deceive their tutor (and themselves) by obtaining work from other people or sources, and knowingly submit this as their own work. This is a clear case of cheating and constitutes fraud.