Plagiarism In Higher Education Learning


A serious and complex problem faced in all spheres of education, plagiarism is simply defined by Sprajc et al (2017) as the “conduct of using data, thoughts, ideas or any intellectual property of any other person without acknowledging them.” In simple terms, it is submitting someone else’s work without acknowledging that it is theirs. It is also understood as the act of using some other person’s academic writing without making any references to explicitly show that it is someone else’s (Powell & Singh, 2016). Most students are concerned about the plagiarism issue and strive to understand what it is and why is it highly regarded by academic institutions. Moreover, international students in certain universities or colleges are surprised to find that foreign universities have stricter guidelines about plagiarism and serve greater penalties for submitting plagiarized work – than universities back at home. This essay aims to evaluate the issue of plagiarism together with Turnitin as computer software used for detecting plagiarism. But first, what is the importance of submitting a non-plagiarized work?


Importance of Submitting Non-Plagiarized Work

In nearly all, if not all higher learning academic institutions, submitting a plagiarized work is a serious academic offense that may attract serious punishments such as expulsion from school (Akbar, 2018). Therefore, students must adhere to the non-plagiarized work requirement to avoid such punishments. Similarly, according to Jereb et al (2018), plagiarism appears in most task assessment criteria as one of the factors considered before awarding marks, and therefore to score good marks in such assignments, students must to submit non-plagiarized assignments. In fact, Jereb et al (2018) claim that some assignments attribute a significant percentage of the total task’s marks, and therefore students have no option but to avoid plagiarism if at all they have to score good marks.

How to Achieve Non-Plagiarized Work

Whereas many students around the world are familiar with the term ‘plagiarism’ a significant number of them are not aware of how to cope with it, and lack the skills for avoiding plagiarism (Ochola & Ocholla, 2016). However, experienced scholars have mastered the art of avoiding and the vice, and have given several examples. For instance, Maclennan (2018) suggests that the surest way of avoiding plagiarism is by referencing the content throug an in-text citation and later providing the details of the referenced text in the reference list.

Another useful technique for avoiding plagiarism is paraphrasing. According to Goh (2013), paraphrasing refers to the art of re-writing the content of a text in one’s own words after reading and understanding the text. To succeed in conducting a good paraphrasing, the writer needs to keep the paraphrasing as short as possible while thinking as much as possible. Ideally, short paraphrases help minimize similarity while thinking as much as possible helps to modify the sentences in the writer’s own words, so much so that the texts do not become identical (Eret & Ok, 2014).

Turnitin – The Plagiarism Software

According to Tedford (2003), the idea of plagiarism check software emerged from the University of Virginia when a physics teacher developed a code that could check the similarity of 1500 papers against other papers done in the previous three years. This software not only unravelled the many number of students who were engaging in academic dishonesty but also showed the paucity of information regarding plagiarism as a form of academic cheating (Eret & Ok, 2014).

Since then, several commercial plagiarism check software that have emerged – Turnitin being one that is popular with most higher education institutions (Maclennan, 2018). Nonetheless, some other software used for the same purpose include: Viper, SafeAsign, eTBLAST, Wcopyfind and MOSS. More importantly, according to Sprajc et al (2017), the software does not do more than matching text and is therefore mostly termed as ‘text-matching software’.

Similar to other types of software, Turnitin performs a comparison of all electronically submitted tasks against the existing database of other assignments previously submitted by students. However, different types of software have different types of databases against which they compare the submitted assignments. But, most of them have a database of journal articles, web pages, assignments and book chapters. Similarly, some text-matching software can be customized to establish a criterion upon which the matching is performed – by varying the criteria determining the behavior of the algorithm it uses to match texts.

In conclusion, this paper has established that plagiarism is an academic misconduct that involves copying someone’s work without acknowledging them. It has also been established that submitting a non-plagiarized assignment is important in scoring good marks and avoiding the university punishment that comes with doing the contrary. Lastly, this paper has highlighted that Turnitin, helps in detecting plagiarism by matching the student’/s assignment with several other materials in the database.

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  • Akbar Akbar (2018) ‘Defining Plagiarism: A Literature Review’, Ethical Lingua: Journal of Language Teaching and Literature, Vol 5, Iss 1, Pp 31-38 (2018), (1), p. 31. doi: 10.30605/ethicallingua.v5i1.750
  • Eret, E. and Ok, A. (2014) ‘Internet Plagiarism in Higher Education: Tendencies, Triggering Factors and Reasons among Teacher Candidates’, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 39(8), pp. 1002–1016.
  • Goh, E. (2013) ‘Plagiarism Behavior Among Undergraduate Students in Hospitality and Tourism Education’, Journal of Teaching in Travel & Tourism, 13(4), pp. 307–322.
  • Jereb, E. et al. (2018) ‘Factors influencing plagiarism in higher education: A comparison of German and Slovene students’, PLoS ONE, 13(8), p. 1.
  • Ocholla, D. N. and Ocholla, L. (2016) ‘Does Open Access Prevent Plagiarism in Higher Education?’, African Journal of Library, Archives & Information Science, 26(2), pp. 187–200.
  • Powell, L. and Singh, N. (2016) ‘An integrated academic literacy approach to improving students’ understanding of plagiarism in an accounting course’, Accounting Education, 25(1), pp. 14–34.
  • MacLennan, H. (2018) ‘Student Perceptions of Plagiarism Avoidance Competencies: An Action Research Case Study’, Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 18(1), pp. 58–74.
  • Šprajc Polona et al. (2017) ‘Reasons for Plagiarism in Higher Education’, Organizacija, Vol 50, Iss 1, Pp 33-45 (2017), (1), p. 33.
  • Tedford, R. (2003), ‘Plagiarism detection programs: A comparative evaluation’, College & University Media Review, v. 9 no. 2, pp. 111-118.

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