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Handling Issues of Plagiarism

Overview / Steps in Handling Plagiarism / Plagiarism Resource Sites / Possible Sanctions and Options



It is important to remember that a fundamental goal of a writing course is to improve students’ abilities to work with sources; there should be no threat of harsh penalties for misusing sources when our courses are designed, in part, to teach students how to use sources well. At the same time, issues of fraud should always and immediately draw a clear penalty. For these reasons, this guide separates cheating, or fraud, from issues of plagiarism.

Cheating or Fraud. Students are cheating when they turn in work written by someone else—work that was bought, borrowed, stolen, or downloaded from the Internet—and pass it off as their own work.

Penalties for this form of plagiarism may range from a lowered grade on an assignment or a portfolio, to an F for the assignment, portfolio, or course, or, in extreme cases, expulsion from IUPUI.

Failing to Cite Sources. If a student has written an essay that includes passages, specific information, or striking language from another source, and fails to include appropriate documentation, she is violating academic expectations. Information that is summarized, paraphrased, or quoted from others’ work (including electronic texts, websites, classmates’ work, lectures, interviews, or written sources) should be correctly attributed.

Faculty may refer students to the University Writing Center to work with citing sources, or they can suggest that students review their text on their own. After faculty have provided instruction and individual feedback to a student about source use, and later drafts still fail to cite sources, the matter should be handled in context as the assignment or portfolio grade is calculated. Depending on the extent of the problem, the assignment or portfolio grade may be lowered (just as failure to perform in some other key area of the course would lower a grade). In cases of extreme failure to cite sources, the assignment or portfolio may be judged failing. Note that a student who fails to cite sources in a deliberate attempt to conceal the source should be considered to be cheating.

Close-but-not-quite-quotations from sources. Many students will not be able to distinguish an inaccurate from accurate citation, particularly when there is some attempt to acknowledge the source. Spending time in class reviewing and practicing how to appropriately credit summaries and paraphrases will help students think through how to integrate and synthesize written sources. This is a complex task and students should be expected to make mistakes as they learn it.

As with the penalties for non-attribution of sources, the penalties for poor summarizing and paraphrasing vary depending on the context, and the extent of the problem. If such problems occur in an early draft, faculty should provide more instruction. However, if such problems persist in final drafts that are submitted in portfolios, the portfolio grade may be lowered appropriately.



Steps in Handling Plagiarism

If faculty suspect that a student is cheating (that is, turning in work written by someone else, or failing to cite sources in a deliberate attempt to deceive a teacher) they should consult the course coordinator or member of the Writing Coordinating Committee to ensure that procedures are correctly followed. Faculty should also review The Indiana University Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities to become familiar with official procedures before talking to the student. The Code sets guidelines and recommendations of handling student misconduct:

Faculty should use this form at the conclusion of the informal conference to document compliance with the student Code. Instructors must report the matter within seven calendar days in writing to the Dean of Students, who will send the report to the student, the dean or director of the school or unit in which the offense occurred, and the student’s dean or director.



Plagiarism Resource Sites

There are a number of sites that provide helpful information about plagiarism, how to spot it, and how to deal with it. Feel free to share these sites with your students.



Possible Sanctions and Options

Remember, even if the student claims it was unintentional, plagiarism may constitute academic misconduct. It also is important to remember there are options for imposing sanctions. Below is an example of an option an instructor worked out with a student, and communicated in writing, after the student plagiarized by cutting and pasting large chunks of text from various websites. The student had a Works Cited page, but used no in-text citations or quotation marks, probably because she knew the paper was not supposed to be a cut and paste.

In order to have a passing portfolio, you are required to do the following:

These requirements, which conform to the Indiana University Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, are due no later than _________________.

If you are unfamiliar with the expectations for citing sources, please visit this link: Plagiarism: What It is and How to Recognize and Avoid It. You may wish to read some writing handbooks as well, and to visit the University Writing Center for help.

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