Skip to Main Content

Antidotes to Plagiarism: What Do Students Think?

Based on a LibGuide by Ludy Goodson and Shannon Johnson, Purdue University - Fort Wayne. Many thanks!

What they think.

What are the student complaints about plagiarism?

BBC News June 13, 2012

“The report says the complaints from 2011 show concern over plagiarism - and how such cheating is defined. It says there is "ambiguity", such as what level of assistance is permitted for a postgraduate thesis.”

Students have felt cheated by a lack of direct instruction. (Howard & Robillard, p. 15).

They have concerns about “violation of their intellectual property rights as held their texts captive,” (Howard & Robillard, pp. 15-16).

"As Janine Schmidt, the University of Queensland librarian has said; many students see nothing wrong with plagiarism. They think  it is sensible use of other people’s research. ‘For many the  difference between research and plagiarism is a very fine line….." (Spender, 2004, p. 4).

We cannot ignore the fact, pointed out by students  at Mount Saint Vincent University who protested the institutional use of the service (N.S. Students, 2005), that a wholesale use of the service implicitly brands all of our students as  potential cheaters, as remedial subjects who must prove their worth" (Howard, 2008, p. 12).

Do they hear us?

Why are the messages that we deliver to students not getting through to them?

Barbara Fister, a librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, offers an insight in her article on Inside Higher Ed, September 6, 2012:

“I suspect a large part of the problem is that we send such mixed messages to students. You may hate group work, but it will prepare you for the reality of the workplace - but when we tell you to work alone, don’t discuss the test or homework problems with anybody else or face severe punishment. When you write a paper, your work must be original - but back up every point by quoting someone else who thought of it first. Develop your own voice as a writer – but try to sound as much like us as possible.”

Howard and Robillard address these the same issues (Pluralizing Plagiarism, and Howard’s Giants).

Howard elaborates on the frequency and extent to which professors claim the work of students as their own, sometimes without even an acknowledgement of the student contribution.

Examples of Plagarism

BBC News August 14, 2012

“German defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg resigned after multiple instances of apparent plagiarism in his 2007 dissertation emerged”

“Paresh Jha, a newspaper reporter in Connecticut, won awards for his work before it was revealed he made up material in more than 25 stories”

“Science writer Jonah Lehrer was accused of reusing his previous material without properly informing editors and readers, and further examination of his work revealed he had fabricated quotes and copied material”

“Fareed Zakaria, the CNN and Time journalist, included a passage in a column on gun control similar to a passage by Jill Lepore in the New Yorker”

  • Shakespeare
  • 2006: Ian McEwan Atonement (passages allegedly taken from Lucilla Andrews' No Time for Romance)
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin – see Green (2002) “how could a writer have included as many as fifty improperly attributed passages in a single book without being deliberately indifferent to the rules of attribution”
  • Stephen Ambrose
  • Goodwin The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys (Lynne McTaggert Kathleen Kennedy: Her Life and Times) see Lynn McTaggert Fame Can’t Excuse a Plagiarist, and:
    •   “John Lesko wrote “Doris Kearns Goodwin’s explanation that her longhand notes were to blame for shoddy scholarship just doesn’t cut it,” (H & R, p. 13)
  •  Alan M. Dershowitz The Case for Israel (Joan Peters From Time Immemorial)
  • How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild… (Megan McCafferty, Sophie Kinsella, Meg Cabot) – see Jeannie Kever “When words aren’t yours”
  • Jack Kelley USA Today
  • Jayson Blair NY Times
  • Martin Luther King (dissertation)
  • Joseph Biden (yes, that Joe Biden)
  • Writer for Katie Couric’s blog
  • Quincy Troupe
  • Michael Bellsiles

Resources on Student Perspectives

Dahl, S. (2007). Turnitin®: The student perspective on using plagiarism detection software. Active Learning in Higher Education, 8(2), 173-191. Retrieved from

Fister, B. (2012, September 6). The plagiarism perplex. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from

Howard, R. M. & Robillard, A. E. (eds.) (2008). Pluralizing Plagiarism: Identitites, Contexts, Pedagogies. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton-Cook.

Power, L. G. (2009). University students' perceptions of plagiarism.Journal Of Higher Education 80(6), 643-662. Retrieved from