#eLearning2017 – Plagiarism Detected: A Practical Guide to Judicious Investigation of Suspected Academic Misconduct


  • Christian Moriarty, Assistant Professor, JD MA, St. Petersburg College


  • Law and ethics of academic plagiarism.
    • In loco parentis (of a teacher or other adult responsible for children, in the place of a parent.) is dead, long live procedure!
    • FERPA – disclosure only to school officials with legitimate educational interest.
      • Student papers, assignments, assessments ARE education records.
  • Syllabus language
    • A syllabus is a contract
      • Ensure syllabus is complete and robust as far as all course and campus policies.
      • Consent, consent, consent
      • Signature page of syllabus, confirmation quiz, or other assignment – this confirms their agreement.
    • Standards of proof
      • Arbitrary and capricious (I’m not out to get you…)
      • Preponderance of the evidence (51%)
  • Plagiarism software
    • Highly recommended, not for gotcha, rather use it for teaching and a learning tool.
    • THEY must submit (student needs to take action and not the instructor submitting for them) AND give consent (they maintain ownership of the content).
      • If either of these is not true, you MUST remove identifying information .
      • If student desires not to use, they could be provided with alternative validation methods.
    • Googling parts of the paper is fine
    • HOWEVER: you should not ask for students’ papers that are not in your class, EVEN with consent
  • If plagiarism detected, then institution policies.
    • Get a second opinion
    • Inform administration
    • Set-up “informational”meeting with student preferable in person
      • Do not record, unless granted by student.
      • Be conversational and polite, not accusatory so that student doesn’t start on the defensive.
        • Present paper and ask probing questions
        • Inquire on details of sources
        • Where did you get this information?
        • If student admits, they may not be aware it is cheating, genuinely!
        • Next step is to invoke institutional procedure.
      • Teachable Moment
        • Refer back to syllabus with it’s clear statements of what plagiarism is and what it’s ramifications and punishments are…
        • Use pre-printed form describing the allegation and the punishment – should be complete process including appeal process.
          • If admission or “reasonable” excuse consider lighter punishment.
          • If moving forward, create a paper trail.
  • Recommended for institutions to have a database of students who have plagiarized.
  • Be aware of paper mills and the difficulty in catching them.
  • Use introduction papers/discussion posts at beginning of semester to compare writing style and ability.
  • Use proctoring at least once during the semester (students go to campus testing center, agreed upon remote proctor, proctoring software).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s