Towards a Rational Response to Plagiarism

Plagiarism is the term that is used to describe the use of someone else’s ideas or texts as one’s own without acknowledging the originator or source of the ideas. Simply, it is copying (and pasting) or using someone else’s work without acknowledging the fact. Generally, plagiarism is a ‘criminal’ act and viewed seriously and as is the case with all criminal acts, ignorance is no excuse.

At the Da Vinci School of Business Leadership, we have taken a rational and developmental approach to ‘copying and pasting or incorrect referencing’’ and refer to the Similarity Index which emanates from reports using plagiarism tools such as Turnitin, rather than plagiarism.

The Turnitin report will produce an overall Similarity Index which is normally expressed as a percentage (for example 25%), which indicates how much of the document submitted by a student is similar to material which was previously published. The Report further indicates a breakdown of the overall similarity index to specific sources such as books (5%), journal articles (7%), dissertations (10%), internet sources (2%) where the materials appeared previously as well as paragraphs of the similar material which is highlighted. 

In order to reduce the Similarity Index to acceptable thresholds, the student needs to rephrase the text and reload the document so that a new report can be produced. Below is an example of how the text could be rephrased:  

This paper examines how students perceived e-learning versus traditional learning mechanisms; how e-learning mechanisms have affected their learning behaviour and why certain e-learning mechanisms offered in the course were more appealing than others.

  • The above statement has no reference and the writer may have copied this verbatim, without realizing that the Similarity Index will be very high since it is a mere “copy and paste’’ exercise.

The above statement can be paraphrased using any one of the following options.

Option 1:

“This paper examines how students perceived e-learning versus traditional learning mechanisms; how e-learning mechanisms have affected their learning behaviour; and why certain e-learning mechanisms offered in the course were more appealing than others” (Mitchell & Forer, 2010:27).

Option 2:

In this study, the perceptions of students regarding e-learning were examined. In addition, the effects of e-learning mechanisms on student learning behaviour was evaluated and the reasons why certain e-learning mechanisms were more appealing than others was explored (Mitchell & Forer, 2010:27).

Option 3:

Somewhat similar to Mitchell & Forer (2010:27), in this study, the perceptions of students regarding e-learning were examined. In addition, the effects of e-learning mechanisms on student learning behaviour was evaluated and the reasons why certain e-learning mechanisms were more appealing than others was explored.

Option 4:

In line with previous research (Mitchell & Forer, 2010:27), this study, examined the perceptions of students regarding e-learning. In addition, the effects of e-learning mechanisms on student learning behaviour was evaluated and the reasons why certain e-learning mechanisms were more appealing than others, were explored.

Option 5:

Mitchell and Forer (2010:27), studied the perceptions of students regarding e-learning. In addition, the aforementioned researchers examined the effects of e-learning mechanisms on student learning behaviour and, the reasons why certain e-learning mechanisms were more appealing than others was explored (Mitchell & Forer 2010)