Why and how students plagiarise

How students plagiarise

Plagiarism occurs in different ways and may sometimes occur as a result of lack of skill or knowledge about academic writing. This section describes how some students may have plagiarised their work. It also explains how Turnitin can help students to avoid plagiarising as well as how it will expose plagiarism.

Academic writing is a skill that takes time to perfect. It is expected that by the time you complete your course you will have well developed academic writing skills that include the ability to reference your work appropriately.

Many students who are found to have plagiarised using the Turnitin software have referenced their work inappropriately. Turnitin shows your lecturer where text matches are made with other sources, the accuracy of your use of quotations and citations.

Forms of plagiarism


Intra-corpal is when students copy from other students in their course.

Many subjects require students in the class to submit assignments based on identical tasks. For some students there is a temptation to directly copy and submit work from other students. Sometimes students use the work of students who may have completed the same subject in a previous semester. This may be a result of collusion.


Collusion is defined elsewhere on this site.

There is nothing wrong with asking a friend for a few hints and tips about an assignment you have been set, but collusion may lead to disciplinary action.

An example of collusion could be a situation where you may have been set an assignment and you get together with some classmates to work on it and submit very similar pieces of work. Cases of collusion are beginning to become more prominent with more group work in subjects across the University. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish your own work when you have been asked to develop work in groups. It is important that you clarify with your lecturer what work needs to be submitted as a group effort and what is expected to be completed as independent work. If you are expected to submit an individual assignment it is essential that you to prepare your work independently.

Turnitin software will identify any paper or parts of a paper that has been directly copied from another student in the same subject. Turnitin also keeps student papers from semester to semester so that papers submitted by you this semester will be checked against student papers submitted in previous semesters.

Collusion is usually considered deliberate plagiarism and dealt with more severely than inadvertent copying.


Extra-corpal is when students copy from an external source.

The most common method of plagiarism involves copying from external sources such as a book or website. This form of plagiarism has been increasing since the internet became such a useful tool for researching essays. It is easy to take something from the internet, change it about a bit and pass it off as your own work.

Turnitin software will identify any paper that has even small amounts of copied and unattributed material. This may also be considered deliberate plagiarism and dealt with severely.


Students who use work previously submitted for another assessment or publication without acknowledgement are self-plagiarising. It is generally unacceptable to recycle papers for more than one assessment task unless special circumstances exist and these have been discussed with your lecturer.

Turnitin software will identify sections of papers that are submitted by the same author for different assessments in the same subject or for other subjects. This may also be considered deliberate plagiarism and dealt with severely.

Why people plagiarise

Most students recognise that plagiarism is not an appropriate course of action. There are however numerous cases of plagiarism occurring across the University that are being detected more readily through Turnitin software. The following case study is indicative of why people have plagiarised and the consequences of these actions.

Student X

Francis had several pieces of work due and was having difficulty meeting deadlines. To ease the load Francis copied much of an essay from existing sources and submitted this as original material.

The plagiarism was identified and Francis failed the subject. He was suspended from the course for one year.

Francis had a learning disability and could have legitimately sought an extension for the deadlines for assignments by contacting the lecturer or the Disability Liaison Unit.

Where to get help

The Academic Skills unit has excellent resources for assisting you to reference your work appropriately. You should also check out their AIRport site as it contains many resources to help you with your academic writing. Use your university email address and password to login.

See the advice to students page for some useful including information about student advocacy and procedural rights.

Help is also available on the information skills help page and also on the plagiarism.org site.