Plagiarism- the big “P” tips to look out for

The majority of learners take pride in completing their studies, take responsibility for their own learning, actively engage with the tasks set, keep to deadlines and take their learning seriously.  Nevertheless on occasion some learners may not do so.  Plagiarism, collusion and cheating undermines the integrity of any qualification.

Learners who decide to cheat, deliberately use unauthorised assistance to deceive their tutor or other such person assigned to evaluate the learner’s work.

Cheating can sometimes come about by means of collusion.  Learners find themselves guilty of collusion if they knowingly allow any of their work to be obtained by another learner for presentation as if it were that person’s own work.  There can be serious consequences for both learners involved.

Other more common forms of plagiarism include ‘copying and pasting’ from the internet without acknowledging/referencing the source. Some very simple giveaways of this are when American spellings or references may have been used (eg color instead of colour, or reference to a Physician instead of Doctor) or mismatches in font styles and sizes within the learner evidence.

How can centres minimise the risks?

Some centres use freeware or invest in software to detect the occurrences of plagiarism/cheating, such as “Turnitin”. This method is not completely fool proof and can prove an expensive choice for centres.

Here are some simple ideas and tips for centres:

• Clear information at the learner Induction stage. Formally sharing your own centre malpractice policy with learners at the start of their learning programme alerts them to the dangers and consequences of cheating. In the early stages of a course, there should be some discussion about plagiarism and malpractice with learners, making direct reference to the disciplinary consequences and process your centre (and SFJ Awards) uses to penalise learners who are caught in such activity.
• Many centres share SFJ Awards Learner Conduct Policy with their learners at induction to make it clear what cheating is and the consequences. The policy is available from the Policies section of our website.
• Assignments should, as far as possible, be designed to make copying or using the work of others unhelpful/inappropriate.
• Many centres adopt the use of an authenticity statement when learners submit their work for marking/assessment. The statement in itself does not prevent cheating, but it does make the learner think (and puts the onus on the learner) at the point they complete the statement and submit the piece of work. SFJ Awards have an exemplar authenticity statement available to centres to use or adapt via the secure centre login area of the website.
• Suitable training and awareness of the assessment and internal quality assurance teams – what they should be looking out for.
• The vigilance of markers and assessors is key to detecting and investigating plagiarism. We all have our own style of writing and speaking, which comes through in evidence produced by learners. Plagiarism is often detected by assessors who see a mismatch in the style of work they are assessing, compared to other work the learners have submitted previously, or how they usually express themselves.
• A learner copies the wrong answer, exactly the same as another learner has presented.
• The vigilance of the internal quality assurers (and external quality assurers) is also vital in spotting patterns, trends or similarities in learner evidence when carrying out sampling checks.
• If you suspect an assessment has been plagiarised, you must try to locate the source. Speak with the learner/conduct a professional discussion and ask them questions about their evidence, to assess whether the work is original and that of the learner.
• It should not be assumed that because an allegation has been made it is true. Incidents must be fairly and appropriately investigated before a conclusion is reached.
• When dealing with identified incidents centres should take into account:

• the frequency. Is it persistent or a one off?
• the extent of the infringement. Is it a few lines or a large section? Does it affect one learner or several?
• the intent. Did the learner deliberately set out to pass off work as their own, or was it accidental?

Where reports of plagiarism, collusion or malpractice are found to be proven, based on the investigation and evidence gathered, SFJ Awards may impose sanctions on a learner, centre staff member or centre in line with our sanctions policy (available here).

For more information, here is a useful link: www.plagiarism.org

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