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Academic Plagiarism in the United Kingdom

Use of plagiarism checker tools to fight academic plagiarism in the United Kingdom becomes the issue of the day. With the invention and popularization of the internet, it has become a temptation for students than ever before. This problem has negatively affected the academic field and college and university teachers are consistently facing issues that are even more challenging.

The article describes the scope of the issue along with the methods used to fight it and their effectiveness based on the results, and gives specific examples of anti-plagiarism measures on local and national UK levels. Institutions will not take and immediate action against students for plagiarism as a result of the results obtains from a plagiarism checker unless a teacher has examined very carefully the report and assured itself that there are indeed sufficient grounds for concern. Students normally will be able to see the detection report and to challenge the teacher if they were accused of plagiarism following an inaccurate report produced by the plagiarism detector.

Various methods are used in the United Kingdom to detect and prevent plagiarism on local and national levels, ranging from the use of plagiarism checker software to simple Web search techniques utilized by individual teachers, such as:

- Training staff in plagiarism detection and prevention, particularly analyzing reports generated by a checker;

- Providing students with necessary information about plagiarism, promoting an appropriate reward for students’ efforts;

- Ensuring that students understand how to record and cite reference work, to mention a few.

In addition, the UK academics Gill Rowell and Peter Tennant from the advisory service have drawn up an interesting points-based system as part of the Academic Misconduct Benchmarking Research (Amber) project that can be used as a sector-wide benchmark. It makes possible to calculate a plagiarism score to select a penalty for students found guilty of plagiarism. Penalties range from a zero mark from the module to expulsion.

Ratcliffe College, Oxford Brookes University, St. Patrick's Academy, Blackburn College and other colleges and universities set out ethical standards in their ‘honour codes’ and Academic Honesty and Integrity statements emphasizing on the fact that plagiarizing and cheating are not tolerated and any person found guilty by a checker will be punished and dismissed from the university. For example, Chiltern Training Ltd.’s Plagiarism Policy clearly explains why plagiarism is not acceptable, and ensures that appropriate actions will be taken where plagiarism is detected. These actions include but not limited to removal from programs or various types of disciplinary actions.

University of Cambridge introduced the University plagiarism website http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/univ/plagiarism/ to explain the procedures and policies to be followed, and to prevent plagiarism. The students can read the University-wide statement on plagiarism, and obtain relevant help from departments and faculties. The examiners and staff can read the General Board’s requirements of Faculty Boards concerning plagiarism, and get acquainted with relevant procedures and policies to be followed.

Colleges and universities also encourage projects that evoke originality and creativity as a part of the student’s assignment and cannot be easily copied from online sources. Another smart method is to encourage students to submit rough drafts and outlines along the way.

A totally new approach for the UK is to use software (both, paid and freeware) to compare student’s work against the web or that of another student. An online checker collects the text, analyzes it, verifies, and investigates the parts of text that are the cases of academic cheating. It searches bibliographic and web databases, its own database and the internet, however, sometimes fails to differentiate between plagiarized and correctly cited text. In such a way, this method is more reliable than manual detection, but does not always accurately demonstrate the extent of intentional academic cheating.

Six other universities are said to have each caught 1,000 or more students cheating over the three-year period. Non-EU students went on to make up 35 per cent of all cases, but accounted for just 12 per cent of the student population, requests from 70 universities showed. (http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/uk-universities-in-plagiarism-epidemic-as-almost-50000-students-caught-cheating-over-last-3-years-a6796021.html)

Plagiarism is a kind of academic theft that can be either accidental or deliberate. In any case, we need to combine automatic plagiarism detection tools and agreed professional standards along with consistent policies on internal or external assessment systems to combat plagiarism more effectively. Irrespective of the nature, it is after all a form of theft and should be penalized in the academic world. It is ironic that students sometimes seem to go to great lengths to hide the sources that they have been consulting from a plagiarism checker. Proper referencing of these will normally be reflected in a good mark for the work submitted. This is because the appropriate use of source material is considered to be a vita part of an successful student career.

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