Authors Awad Et Al

2.1. Defining Plagiarism (need to define all variables in this study)

The authors Chambliss et al. (2010, p.103) summarise that “plagiarism occurs when one author copies someone else’s writing or ideas without sufficient acknowledgment,” this is agreed upon by authors such as Lewis, Duchac, and Beets (2011), who also stated that this act poses a moral and ethical dilemma. The understanding of what plagiarism is can often be clouded by the student’s understanding and perception of the concept. Bouville, (2008, p.312) stated that:

plagiarism (if explicitly defined at all) is generally taken to mean the appropriation of the words and ideas of others. However, the specific status of words and ideas is not always made clear.

What is clear in understanding plagiarism, is that it is an immoral and unethical act frowned upon in academia. There are however numerous forms of plagiarism that should be noted. Such forms include: plagiarism of ideas, direct plagiarism, mosaic plagiarism, and self-plagiarism (Das & Panjabi, 2011).

2.2. Why Students Plagiarise

Numerous studies have been conducted on the reasons students cite for committing academic misconduct which includes cheating and plagiarising. These reasons include, but are not limited to: wanting to receive better marks, thinking that they will not be caught, and comparing the cost of plagiarising to the perceived benefits (Walker, 2010). Often students cite reasons that fall into specific themes such as: a lack of knowledge and understanding of what plagiarism is; not considering the consequences of plagiarism, and as mentioned, the benefits outweighing the cost of getting caught. Numerous researchers, including Maina, Maina and Juaro (2014); Ma, Wan and Lu (2008); and Sentleng and King (2012), have investigated the validity of the reasons and found that as many as 20% of students were completely unaware of what it meant to plagiarise. The authors Lewis et al. (2011) also made a valid statement that one of the big reasons why students plagiarise is that with a rising number of students with unlimited access to the internet, the ease of copying and pasting of material is much easier.

2.3. Plagiarism Detection

Technological advances do not only assist students with plagiarising, but can also assist lecturers in detecting plagiarism. Turnitin is one such electronic tool that can be utilised in deterring plagiarism through detection. Walker (2010, p. 47) conducted a study in which students were advised on what the tool’s capabilities were “a study guide with a definition of plagiarism, descriptions of specific types of plagiarism, an explanation of why plagiarism is unacceptable and sections on Internet plagiarism and acknowledgement of sources.” His study found that this was not deterrent enough to curb plagiarism due to numerous factors and reasons as already mentioned.

2.4. Plagiarism and Punishment

Hosny and Fatima (2014), who in their study of female students, at university level, found that being conscious of what cheating and plagiarism is, does not serve as deterrent enough to prevent students from committing the offence. The authors Williams and Williams (2012) in their study noted that past academic dishonesty was a good predictor of future behaviour and that past offenders will most likely be repeat offenders.

Numerous studies have been completed in the hope in finding solutions to decrease the number of occurrences of plagiarising and cheating by students and in their published work. Such studies that were conducted include those by: Maina, Maina and Juaro (2014); Sentleng and King (2012); and Hosny and Fatima (2014). Some of the measures investigated as deterrent to plagiarism were to ensure students have a thorough understanding of the concept of what plagiarism is, ensure they know the consequences of plagiarising, and that students should be reprimanded through severe penalties if found to have plagiarised. Such severe punishment and penalties could include giving students zero for a paper, failing students in a class, suspension or expelling students.

Awad, Zogheid and Alazemi (2016, p.554), noted that “[s]tudents are more inclined to repeat an academic offence if previous attempts were rewarding or did not have negative consequences.” They also noted that more universities globally adopted and implemented more severe penalties for repeat offenders. Michaels and Miethe (as cited in Awad et al., 2016) argued that the academic policies and honour codes hinged on two major assumptions. These assumptions were that the deterrence should be proportional to the severity of the offence, as more severe penalties are applied to more severe offences. The other is that student’s analysis of the benefits versus cost of academic misconduct applied the same decision-making process applied by law offenders, but in an academic environment. Both these assumptions are likened to established criminal control in which an offender is considered rational in thinking and would refrain from re-committing an offence if the punishment is severe and the probability of being caught is high. Authors such as Williams and Williams (2012), noted that the relationship between academic dishonesty and general criminal behaviour might be small, but is significant, including correlations between dishonesty, violent crime and drug offending sub-categories.

The authors Awad et al. (2016) did however find that complete deterrence could be achieved when the expected penalty or punishment was higher than the maximum possible gain, in the instance of students this included: higher grade marks etc. They also found that the increase of penalties was not always optimal to punish repeat offences. This was true in the cases when learning by both offender and the teaching assistant is considered.

Authors such as Devlin (2006, p.45) argue the contrary, the author’s argument is that the inclusion of learning and teaching strategies should form part of university’s policies to dissuade students to plagiarism, as well as for the universities to “pay closer attention to the communication of unambiguous definitions of plagiarism.” The author thus notes a holistic approach in curbing plagiarism including monitoring, detection, and considering the workload of teaching staff. As Williams and Williams (2012) note that behaviour of students might persist partly due to academic staff’s reluctance in reporting offenders. This reluctance of staff could however be rooted in them not wanting to place a burden or cause reputational damage to the institution. Other reasons for lecturers not strongly implementing existing policy could include that lecturers might feel they have failed in their job, a student might be liked, a justification by the lecturer on behalf of the student such as workload or other situational factors (Cleland, Knight & Tracey, 2008).

Clement (as cited in Levy & Rakovski, 2006), noted that fear of punishment and the embarrassment that went with it were the strongest deterrents against student’s cheating or plagiarising. This was reiterated by Levy and Rakovski’s (2006) survey sample of 1 269 students. Their survey found that students had strong beliefs that the punishment should fit the crime, with students also indicating that they are less likely to commit a severe crime as they know that the punishment would be more severe. Megehee and Spake, (2008) conducted a study and listed the punishment students deemed fit for different misconduct, see Table 1. A majority of students in the study (63.1%) believed the penalty for plagiarism should be a lower grade, followed by zero for an assignment (18.2%).