Investigation and penalties

'Discuss this statement, explaining whether or not you consider it to be correct. How should universities deal with cases of plagiarism in terms of investigation and penalties? ' The word 'plagiarism' is shrouded in negative connotations: it is often referred to by words such as dishonesty and stealing; indicating that plagiarism is severely frowned upon and unjustifiable. The Common Law in the United Kingdom recognises this and, as a result, protects people's personal work under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 19881, further emphasising the fact that it is wrong because it allows someone to take credit for work that is not their own.

Plagiarism at universities can take place in two forms. It can either be 'deliberate with the intention to deceive or accidental due to poor referencing'2. Deliberate plagiarism is currently the most common and treacherous form of plagiarism whilst accidental plagiarism is less of a concern. Despite extreme measures and constant warning, plagiarism exists – many students are disqualified and their studies discontinued as a result. A possible reason for plagiarism could be the vast reading material available; making it not only costly but almost impossible for universities to keep up with.

It seems that students are able to access so much material that they can plagiarise from vast number of resources without identification Plagiarism has been shown the red card by every university. Evidence of this is the fact that each university now has their own set of rules on how to deal with both plagiarism types, details of which can be found on their website. For instance, University of Surrey's policy on plagiarism states clearly, 'plagiarism is a serious academic offence and could result in suspension of your degree course'3 as well as what the consequences would be of such a practice.

The first penalty (assuming that the problem is poor referencing) is that 'the project/coursework will be awarded zero marks'4. However "repeat offences may result in zero marks for the full module or even in a termination of your degree programme'5. Nonetheless, the most important counter-argument, in favour of plagiarism, is the fact that it is not under any statute or act illegal for a student to use others work as resource to produce their own. Hence students should be allowed to openly use resources to improve their work. This implies that unintentional plagiarism is right but intentional plagiarism is wrong.

A further point made by those who feel unintentional plagiarism is right is that students should not have to submit a bibliography. It is time consuming, tedious and the time used can be spent by students paying more heed to their actual task at hand. This is important, as most students could produce higher standards of work without stressing about referencing correctly. However the abandoning of bibliographies would then lead to another flaw, as it would be extremely difficult to determine exactly at what point plagiarism becomes intentional.