Faculty Guide

Plagiarism at Acadia: A Student's Guide

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Why students plagiarize


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accidental plagiarism

Many instances of plagiarism are the result of students' misunderstanding or ignorance of what constitutes plagiarism and how to cite sources properly. Students are often confused by academic exercises that seem to simultaneously require and penalize the use of sources. Many simply do not know when, why, or how to quote, paraphrase, and cite print and electronic sources. All students should be instructed in the details of using sources appropriately and citing them correctly, and they should be given an understanding of how the arcana of APA or the trivia of Turabian relates to the nature of scholarship and how it is constructed in their disciplines. Ask your librarian about classroom sessions on using information ethically.

deliberate plagiarism

Less common but more serious is deliberate plagiarism. This usually involves the wholesale copying of an assignment from a book, another student, or - more likely - the web, which allows students to find, copy (or purchase) and submit as their own papers in a matter of seconds. Paper mills have proliferated on the web: one of the more exhaustive lists of paper mills linked to more than 250 as of July 2002.

Preventing plagiarism

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  • take time in class to explain plagiarism, its consequences, and how to avoid it; or ask your librarian to give a workshop on using information ethically
  • provide students with examples of the citation style you wish them to use (the library research guide for your discipline will link to good samples of commonly-used styles)
  • design assignments in such a way that plagiarism is impractical or unappealing:
  • have students submit assignments in stages (topic, outline, references, first draught, etc.) to ensure that students are working well ahead of final deadlines and to show evidence of evolution and original thought
  • require students to submit photocopies or printouts of the title pages of each source cited
  • have a peer review session during which students check each other's bibliographies
  • have students submit their papers to turnitin.com
  • ensure that your students know that they can ask for help from you or from a librarian at any time


Detecting plagiarism

Go to Top of PagePlagiarism is usually easy to detect. Professors will immediately spot common give-aways such as:

  • sudden changes in style: from awkward to erudite within the same paper, or from one assignment to the next (some professors purposely set personal writing assignments early in the term to determine students' writing abilities and styles)
  • peculiarities in the bibliography: sources that are inappropriate, obscure, or unavailable at Acadia
  • inconsistencies in font face, font size, layout, page numbering, etc. that can be indicative of cutting and pasting from the web
  • lack of connection between the assignment and the classroom proceedings


Verifying plagiarism by identifying the source is similarly straightforward:


  • search for suspect phrases in Google (use quotation marks around the phrase to force a phrase search rather than a keyword search);
  • try other search engines such as alltheweb if Google yields no results
  • check any of the more popular online paper mills, such as School Sucks
  • search the library's licensed databases: the plagiarized text may be from an online journal
  • ask your librarian for assistance



Go to Top of PageAcadia University has acquired a campus licence for turnitin.com, an online plagiarism-detection service. The software compares submitted papers with public web pages and turnitin.com's own database of student papers and generates an "Originality Report" based on the degree to which the submitted paper matches other documents. Each submitted paper is assigned an overall ranking for originality, while any individual passages in question are underlined and colour-coded on a spectrum from blue (slightly similar) to red (exact copy). For each flagged passage, there is a corresponding link to the URL where the matching text can be found, and a percentage indicating the closeness of the match. Student papers can be submitted directly to turnitin.com through an ACORN assignment (with or without the opportunity to revise the paper after the software has assessed its originality!). For more information on turnitin.com, contact Terry Aulenbach in Learning Technologies & Instructions Design (LTID).

Reporting plagiarism

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Faculty members who suspect a student of plagiarism should consult the procedures for dealing with plagiarism in Acadia's regulations on Academic Integrity. The regulations are published in the academic calendar, in print and online. The Registrar's faculty information guide also notes that "the Registrar maintains a list of students who have been penalized for plagiarism. If you discover a case of plagiarism, you should check with the Registrar to see whether this student has been involved in a previous incident, as this knowledge may affect your decision on the severity of the penalty."

What can the Library do?

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The Library has a major role to play in preventing plagiarism on campus. Many occurrences of plagiarism are the result of students' poor research skills. By working together to ensure that students receive thorough training in research methods and resources, librarians and professors can not only reduce plagiarism among students, but also instill confidence and facilitate learning.

Your librarian can:

  • work with you to develop assignments that incorporate appropriate library resources and deter plagiarism
  • design and deliver in-class information sessions tailored to your discipline, course, or assignment
  • provide one-on-one research assistance to students
  • assist you in locating sources in cases of suspected plagiarism


Acadia University Policies

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity demands responsible use of the work of other scholars. It is compromised by academic dishonesty such as cheating and plagiarism. A student who is uncertain whether or not a course of action might constitute cheating or plagiarism should seek in advance the advice of the instructor involved.

  • Cheating is copying or the use of unauthorized aids or the intentional falsification or invention of information in any academic exercise.
  • Plagiarism is the act of presenting the ideas or words of another as one's own. Students are required to acknowledge and document the sources of ideas that they use in their written work.
  • Self plagiarism is also a form of plagiarism. It is the presentation of the same work in more than one course without the permission of the instructors involved.
  • A student who knowingly helps another to commit an act of academic dishonesty is equally guilty.
  • Penalties are levied in relation to the degree of the relevant infraction. They range from requiring the student to re-do the piece of work, through failure on that piece of work, to failure in the course, and to dismissal from the university.


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Procedures concerning infractions of academic integrity

  • Faculty members, after informing their director/head and contacting the student involved, shall attempt to determine the personal responsibility of the student and impose penalties where appropriate.
  • The student can appeal the faculty member's decision to the department director/head and, if still not satisfied, to the dean.
  • The student can appeal the dean's decision to the Vice-President Academic who shall inform the student of his/her decision as to the student's personal responsibility and the penalty imposed.
  • A student has the right to appeal the decision of the Vice-President Academic to the Senate Committee on Academic Discipline. Students have the right to have legal counsel when appearing before this committee.
  • Computing Services and the Vaughan Memorial Library publish policies for the use of university computer facilities, both hardware and software and the use of the university library and its resources. Violation of these policies, or other abuse of university computer facilities, will be dealt with in the same manner as other forms of cheating or as a non-academic offence. For the dedicated purpose of inter-institutional loan and document delivery services, patron records may be stored on a remote database. Some violations may also lead to criminal prosecution. It is the students' responsibility to familiarize themselves with the Computing Services policies.



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