Plagiarism and the Art of Good Scholarship

At the core of all academic endeavors lies the fundamental “art of scholarship”. This art, which we expect our students (and faculty) to master, can be seen as an ethical code of conduct that regulates how we research, understand and build upon the work of others. Essentially, we shall give credit where credit is due when we draw upon others’ ideas or materials. Plagiarism is the act of using borrowed materials without giving proper credit and is a clear violation of good scholarship.

With the growth of the Internet and the increased use of ICT, we have seen many innovations in teaching and learning. Students all over the world now have access to an enormous and ever growing reservoir of learning materials few could have dreamt of previously. However, the ICT revolution has also ushered in an era of cut and paste. The ease and temptation of finding and then presenting others’ work as your own is a reality clearly reflected in the growth of plagiarism. This seems to be compounded by the globalization of education where more and more students are being taught in a second or third language. Their mastery of the language of instruction is not always adequate and the temptation to borrow the words of others is strong. The ethical underpinnings of good scholarship are being challenged. 


Doing something about plagiarism

How do we then go about reducing plagiarism? And, perhaps firstly, how do we go about creating a common understanding of plagiarism? From experience, we see a tremendous variation in understanding among faculty and students, and in a global sense, between regional cultures, of just what plagiarism is. Carroll and Appleton (2001, p7) advocate ”a balanced institutional approach” to reducing plagiarism, which should include:

  • Ways to design out opportunities for plagiarism
  • Teaching students what plagiarism is
  • Teaching students the skills to avoid plagiarism
  • Ways to create a climate that discourages plagiarism
  • The judicious use of electronic aids (to detect plagiarism)
  • A clear separation between the assessment and disciplinary processes
  • A clear fair and consistent disciplinary procedure
  • Informing students about the institution’s policies and practices to tackle plagiarism
  • An overall policy setting out the responsibilities of all staff in relation to each point above

Here is an example of a student declaration from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, which must be signed by students before they hand in an assignment. Attached to the declaration is a short explanation of plagiarism and a quiz that students are encouraged to take to test their understanding av plagiarism. Student Declaration and Quiz


Designing out plagiarism

Designing out opportunities for plagiarism is a concept to keep in mind and is in fact an important pedagogical tool. Opportunities for plagiarism can be considerably reduced by giving close attention to learning outcomes and assessment design, by designing in the need to demonstrate the ability to analyze, synthesize, evaluate, compare, reflect and/or gather information. If students are asked to make references to current events, specific places or personal experiences, this can also reduce possibilities for copying. Many students are poor managers of their own time.

This results in papers being written at the last minute and increases the tendency to plagiarize. Introducing a structured writing process (f.ex. topic, outline, draft, final product) and requiring students to submit their work for formative assessment will encourage planning and most likely reduce cases of plagiarism.

Watch this short, fun and informative YouTube video about plagiarism and what can be done to reduce the possibility of plagiarism




A short guide to designing assessments that prevent plagiarism from the University of Leeds:

You will find many good resources dealing with plagiarism under the Resource Section of the site: