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Many faculty members are worried about plagiarism--and justifiably so. In today's world
of networked information and cutting-edge technology, plagiarism is easier and more common
than ever before. But the more you know about plagiarism, the more easily you can prevent,
detect, and (if necessary) report it. We hope this page helps you better understand this
If you have questions or comments about this document, please stop by the library,
call 407-903-8100, or email the library at firstname.lastname@example.org. However, this document
is for informational purposes only and does not purport to be exhaustive or authoritative.
Questions that we cannot answer will be referred to the
UCF Office of Student Conduct, the official office
for such matters.
Definition and Statistics
Webster's Third New International Dictionary (2002) defines the word
plagiarize as follows:
to steal and pass off as one's own (the ideas
or words of another)... [to] use (a created
production) without crediting the source... to
commit literary theft... to present as new and
original an idea or product derived from an
Clearly, there are many different types of plagiarism, many of which might not rise to
the level of "literary theft." Nonetheless, instances of plagiarism, no matter how small
or unintentional, can undermine the mission of the academy, negatively impact student learning,
and tarnish the reputation of students or faculty members.
Moreover, some research suggests that plagiarism, especially "cut & paste" plagiarism
(using one or more sentences from Internet sites in a paper without attribution), among
college students is alarmingly common and on the rise.
In a 1997 study by St. Johns University professor Miguel Roig, 36% of undergraduates
admitted to having plagiarized written material at least once (Roig).
Two years later, a survey conducted by the Center for Academic Integrity at Duke University
found that "of 2,100 students on 21 campuses across the country, about one-third of the
participating students admitted to serious test cheating and half admitted to one or more
instances of serious cheating on written assignments" (Clemson).
In a 2001 survey by the same group, 41% of students admitted to engaging in "cut & paste"
plagiarism and 68% did not think it was a "serious issue" (Clemson).
Finally, of college students who took the 2003 National Survey of Student Engagement, 87%
reported that their peers engaged in "cut & paste" plagiarism "at least some of the time"
(Sterngold). (Of course, it is not known whether this last percentage
is so high because students overestimate the extent of the problem among their peers or
because students are more likely to be honest when asked about their peers' habits rather
than their own habits. Clearly, however, "cut & paste" plagiarism remains a problem.)
Why Students Plagiarize
The statistics presented above are grim. But it is important to understand the reasons
behind student plagiarism, especially since both research and anecdotal evidence suggests
that most students plagiarize unintentionally.
Common reasons for plagiarism among students include:
Poor research skills
Confusion between plagiarism and paraphrasing
Inability to distinguish between "common knowledge" and information that should
Confusion about how to properly cite sources
Poor time management and planning skills
Confusion about assignment requirements or expectations, especially in "group" projects
Cultural attitudes towards plagiarism
Belief that most students do not get caught
The good news is that there are many ways to prevent both intentional and unintentional
plagiarism. Some of the most effective measures include:
Schedule customized library instruction sessions with a trained librarian.
We can help improve students' research skills, suggest strategies for critically
evaluating information, and eliminate some of the confusion regarding citation styles.
See our Information Literacy page for more information.
Talk with your class about plagiarism, academic honesty, and related topics
in the first class and include discussion of such topics in your syllabi.
If you never mention these topics, many students will assume that you don't care
about these issues or won't pursue possible instances of dishonesty. The
UCF Office of Student Conduct has developed
a number of helpful resources for faculty, including an Academic Dishonesty flyer
that some professors regularly include in their syllabi.
Design good assignments with clear expectations. For individual
written assignments, time-honored strategies such as staggering due dates for different
parts of the paper, reviewing early drafts, and specifying what types of resources
may be used make plagiarizing very difficult. For group projects, make it clear
what degree of collaboration is appropriate and stress that similar standards as
for written assignments (e.g., turning in a bibliography) should be followed (University
of Alberta Libraries; Franklin & Marshall College Library).
Follow up on likely instances of academic dishonesty. Many faculty
members prefer not to pursue potential instances of plagiarism because they believe
that "catching" students is too time-consuming, that pursuing disciplinary action
could tarnish their or their students' reputations, or that students who cheat are
only "cheating themselves." Each of these reasons has some merit, and certainly
faculty members cannot (and should not) take the time to examine every paper for
plagiarism. However, students will tend to take your message more seriously if you
can back it up with real examples or have established a reputation for not tolerating
Detecting possible instances of plagiarism is often not especially difficult or time-consuming
if you concentrate mostly on papers that have one or more of the following suspicious qualities:
The quality of the writing or research in one or more sections of the paper seems
to exceed a student's ability (based on your previous experience with the student)
The style and formatting used in different sections of a paper vary greatly
The paper contains unusual imbedded links, page numbering, or page breaks
The topic of the paper was not approved and is not consistent with the assignment
or class objectives
Try using one or more commercial detection services. UCF has an arrangement with
one called turnitin.com. The service compares the text of papers
to a known database of papers and to Internet sites. Faculty may inquire about setting
up a turnitin account with Patricia MacKown, Director of the Office of Student Rights
and Responsibilities, at 407-823-6960 or
This cannot be stressed enough: If you believe a student has engaged in dishonest
conduct, including but not limited to plagiarism, you should consult the
UCF Office of Student Conduct. Their
website provides informational flyers, links to relevant sections of the student handbook,
contact information for staff, incident report forms, and much more. In addition to handling
formal allegations of wrongdoing, the Office of Student Conduct may be able to assist with
informal or less binding types of action (for instance, you can submit an incident report
form for "information purposes" only OR to "initiate the Student Conduct Review process").
Sources used in writing the foregoing sections include: