Why Students Plagiarize

Following is a list of factors to consider when thinking about plagiarism and how to help your students to avoid it.

  • The internet has made it easier to access information that can be effortlessly pasted into one's writing.
  • Perceptions of intellectual property influenced by file sharing, music downloads, Wikipedia, etc., make it difficult for students to evaluate the source of information.
  • Students may be unprepared for college level writing.
  • Students' focus on grades and their fear of failure create a motivation to cheat.
  • Procrastination and poor time management leave students with limited options.
  • Students are uncertain about which documentation rules to follow.
  • Students in groups may blur lines between individual and collective responsibilities.
  • Assignments that are too general or only require a final draft may be perceived as opportunities to cut corners.
  • Inconsistent campus and faculty responses make it easier for students to hide behind their own confusion.

What are some differences in non-traditional/traditional students related to plagiarism?

In addition to the above, there are special circumstances that non-traditional students may face:

  • Increased time management demands of balancing home, work, and school
  • Increased feelings of lack of integration coupled with higher outside pressures
  • Increased grade pressures for those whose employers fund their education

What are some cultural differences related to plagiarism?

International students may face specific challenges:

  • Text and other intellectual property may be viewed as collectively owned by the society or culture, not the individual.
  • Some cultures value open access over individual ownership.
  • Learning based in rote memorization and copying rather than critical examination leads to instances of copying and pasting.
  • The use of someone's work verbatim can be viewed as honoring the author.
  • The buying or borrowing of papers and other forms of cheating are widely accepted.
  • The pressures of writing in English create additional challenges: Excessive paraphrasing, cutting and pasting passages, and “patchwriting” can be considered as a means of learning the language.
  • Students are unfamiliar with rules defining common knowledge, documentation, and other concepts.