University sees decrease in plagiarism

Plagiarism offences at Nottingham have decreased for the first time in several years, IMPACT has discovered.

Cases fell from 46 incidents in the period from August 2011- April 2012 to 35 offences in the same period during 2012/13.

An investigation by THE TELEGRAPH into university plagiarism in 2009/10 revealed that the majority of the 84 institutions surveyed reported a drastic rise in the cases of plagiarism from 2005/6.

Statistics uncovered by IMPACT showed that there was a large spike in recorded plagiarism offences at the University of Nottingham over the four years from 2007 to 2011, with 52 cases between 2007/09 and 287 between 2009/11. Since then numbers have fallen substantially.

In accordance with the University’s offences policy, all first-time offences are dealt with by departmental schools. In the 2009/10 academic year, this policy was integrated with the University’s new system in which the outcome of these cases was reported to the Academic Services team which recorded these statistics across a central database.

A GUARDIAN article published in February this year highlighted the role of online software such as Turnitin and the mostly positive impact it has had on incidences of plagiarism.

Introduced in 2009/10, Turnitin uses certain extracts from the submitted work, cross-checking them against external sources for evidence of similar phrasing and work taken and used without proper referencing.

SU Education Officer Matt Styles commented: “I wouldn’t take the number of plagiarism cases recorded as indicative of how widespread plagiarism actually is,” adding “You’d do your best not to get caught, so it may be more a measure of how good people are at hiding offences”.

He was also cautious about Turnitin’s effectiveness, stating: “Other factors come into play – more minor offences being recorded through staff picking slip-ups through the software; staff becoming over-reliant on the tool; students being suddenly better placed to check references, and so on.”

Aatish Thakerar
Additional reporting by Rebecca Writer-Davies


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