Prior to attempting this week’s discussion students are to read the week 2 lesson found in the weekly content section of the classroom for this week. Students are to list the various databases and other sources utilized in their search for information on their topic. Students are to include their thesis statement in the first line of their post. Then, share with their classmates at least 2 helpful hints they feel will aid them in their search for information. Also, students are to be sure to post any difficulties they have found in searching for information.
Ensuring Effective Student Support in Higher Education
Alleged Plagiarism Cases
Craig Baird & Patricia Dooey
Published online: 5 February 2014
# Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014
Abstract Plagiarism and other forms of academic misconduct are matters of great
concern at all levels of study worldwide. This is especially so for students in higher
education institutions, where higher degrees and publications are key focus activities.
Ready access to internet based resources assist academic writing practices. However, the
unintentional, or sometimes deliberate, lack of acknowledgment of intellectual property
ownership by some students results in plagiarism allegations. In this article we explain
how the Business School at Curtin University, Western Australia, currently handles
plagiarism accusations; and we propose a model for making the University’s approach
more transparent, supportive, and educative for students. We recommend this model to
Keywords Plagiarism . Academic integrity. Student support . Learning styles . International
Issues surrounding plagiarism have attracted much attention in recent years, particu-
larly with the growth of the Internet and ease of access to material posted on it
(Carroll, 2007; Flowerdew & Li, 2008; Park, 2004; Sutherland-Smith, 2008). In this
article plagiarism is understood as the use of intellectual property, ideas, or published
materials without providing clear acknowledgement of the source or ownership of
such materials. All Australian universities have policies and procedures for dealing with cases
of alleged plagiarism.
Here we examine the process used to deal with plagiarism allegations by the Curtin
Business School (CBS), the largest faculty of Curtin University, Western Australia.
Innov High Educ (2014) 39:387–400
DOI 10.1007/s10755-014-9285-4
Craig Baird (PhD) works at Curtin University (Western Australia), where he assists academic staff research
activities and supports higher degree students in their doctoral studies.
Patricia Dooey (EdD) is Coordinator for English Language Development in the Faculty of Humanities at Curtin
C. Baird (*): P. Dooey
Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
e-mail: c.baird@exchange.curtin.edu.au
Throughout this article the plagiarism resolution process being discussed will be referred to as
the CBS process, which is situated within the University’s policies and procedures for dealing
with plagiarism. Arising from our experiences, we propose refinements to the CBS process
designed to guide students through that procedure in a communicative, supportive manner.
Changes to the current CBS process are intended to make the investigation and resolution of
plagiarism allegations transparent by clearly communicating to students each of the
procedures and decisions pertaining to their situation. The aim of the proposed
changes is to ensure procedural justice and support for students by having a trained
designated person available to advise them throughout the procedure for resolution of
the allegation.
Curtin Business School has a student enrolment of over 16,000 students, of whom
about 70% are international enrolments in both onshore and offshore campus settings.
With such high numbers of international students it is not surprising that the incidence
of plagiarism allegations is heavily weighted to that group. We, the authors, work
almost exclusively with international students at CBS; and therefore our focus in this
paper is on how this group of students, in particular, is impacted by plagiarism
Upon enrolment, all Curtin University students are required to sign an official document
called the student charter, which includes information about the University’s policies regarding
academic misconduct and plagiarism. In addition to setting out their rights and responsibilities
as students, the charter document also notes that students are required to become knowledge-
able about specific Curtin University policies on a range of topics concerning behaviour,
racism, equity matters, and plagiarism. By signing this document students agree to check their
official university email and other communications, (such as announcements shown on their
log-in page when using the University’s internet access service) at least once a week. This
online resource is intended to keep them informed and up to date on the full range of official
University information. It also requires them to take timely action on key matters, which is
particularly relevant in cases of alleged plagiarism. This information is further reinforced
through the learning (unit)1 outline materials provided for every course (multiple units) in
which a student is enrolled.
In response to the growing international cohort of students, faculty, and professional
staff,2 CBS provides workshops and individual learning support to assist those
experiencing difficulties with language, culture, learning practices, and plagiarism.
Some students new to Curtin University have not previously experienced an
evidence-based approach to writing and find themselves caught up in unintentional
plagiarism as a result of not referencing their work. This is particularly the case for
international students who may have come from countries where the rules for acknowl-
edging intellectual property vary from those at Curtin University, and thus they are
unaware of their non-compliance. To a degree this is dealt with at CBS through learning
support workshops and individual student support sessions focussed on academic writing.
However, there are many students who do not access these services because they are unaware
of their deficit in writing skills or have study difficulties which go unnoticed until a plagiarism
allegation arises.
1 The term unit in Australia is the equivalent of a course in North America. It typically describes a unit of study
that lasts the duration of a single academic term or teaching period. A course in Australia is regarded as a group
of units needed to complete a university degree.
2 Note that the Australian usage of the word “staff” is to be understood as including both faculty and staff
members in North American parlance.
388 Innov High Educ (2014) 39:387–400
Causes of Plagiarism and Related Issues
A number of studies have investigated the reasons why students plagiarise. One such study
examined student perceptions concerning plagiarism and found that the reasons given included
(not in any particular order) “inadequate admission criteria, poor understanding of plagiarism,
poor academic skills, teaching/learning issues, laziness/convenience, pride in plagiarising,
pressures and education costs” (Devlin & Gray, 2007, p.187). These researchers studied a
broad student cohort and identified many issues that relate strongly to English as an Additional
Language (EAL) students, who comprise a substantial cohort of the student body in western
In a North American context, Abasi & Graves (2008) investigated the interaction between
international graduate students and their professors in order to explore the notion of ownership
of language and ideas and the balance that graduate students are required to find between
providing their own ideas and language and supporting these appropriately with the work of
others. Findings suggest that the challenge is greater for international students writing in
another language, who might not yet have access to “words of their own” (Abasi & Graves,
2008, p.223) in that language. Furthermore, international/EAL students are more likely to
come under scrutiny for plagiarism than local students because “the tutor is familiar with their
writing styles” (Bamford & Sergiou, 2005, p.17) and because of “the more prominent
differences in language level and tone between copied and original work” (Wheeler &
Anderson, 2010, p.171). Thus, the triggers for plagiarism to occur are more likely to result
from circumstances which are pertinent to international students. In other words, the common
issues facing students in terms of academic integrity are compounded for such students.
The fundamental principles of academic integrity have been defined as honesty, trust,
fairness, respect, and responsibility (The Center for Academic Integrity, 1999); and it is these
principles that form the basis of the CBS guidelines for dealing with issues of plagiarism.
Some students might plagiarise knowingly with the intention to deceive. However, given that
the interpretation of plagiarism is multifaceted, other students, especially those from diverse
cultural and/or educational backgrounds, find themselves unwittingly facing plagiarism alle-
gations. Many international students come from educational backgrounds where it is not
considered necessary to acknowledge the ideas of others, nor to conform to a specific
referencing system (Baird & Dooey, 2012). Therefore it is important to establish as far as this
is possible, the degree of intentionality in order to determine appropriate ways of dealing with
reported instances of plagiarism. It is also critical to determine the distinction between
intentional and unintentional plagiarism, which is a key part of implementing policy and
practice at CBS.
Processes and the Study
Our research began with seeking to understand how the plagiarism process used by CBS
affects students and faculty involved in resolving an allegation of plagiarism. Over a period of
one year (2012), we recorded field notes concerning comments, anecdotes, processes, and
outcomes for fourteen students whose alleged plagiarism was dealt with via the CBS plagia-
rism resolution process (all cases for that period in CBS). Primary data were collected from
those students in informal discussions that formed part of the learning development consulta-
tions the authors conduct at the students’ request whilst other information came from more
formal interviews with those same students, following resolution of their plagiarism allega-
tions. To align what the students had noted as their experience of the CBS plagiarism
Innov High Educ (2014) 39:387–400 389
resolution process with what the staff members involved had experienced, we conducted
informal interviews with 18 faculty members (a mix of academic and administrative personnel)
who had played various roles in dealing with those 14 students’ plagiarism allegations. The
aim was to confirm details of how the matters had been conducted and what the impact was on
students and staff, from a staff perspective. The participants included Unit/Course
Coordinators, tutors, student services officers, and administrative staff in the Dean of
Students’ (DoS) office. We then used the findings which emerged from analysis through
coding for common themes and key issues to make recommendations for a more student-
focussed approach to implementing the CBS plagiarism resolution process.
The changes we suggest are intended to provide a more transparent, communicative and
supportive experience for all students going through the plagiarism allegation process. To date,
no changes of the kind we recommend have been made to the CBS plagiarism resolution
process at Curtin. For some students plagiarism is unintentional, possibly through a lack of
knowledge or understanding of the rules. For others, it may be deliberate. Either way, the
approach proposed here follows the same pathway and offers the same guidance and support
with a view to making this an educative, supportive process.
Although plagiarism occurs across all student groups, there are a number of contributing
factors such as educational background, level of English language skill, and independent
academic skills, which may contribute to plagiarism by international students (Devlin & Gray,
2007; Liu, 2005). Many studies have noted a lack of awareness within this student group of
expectations regarding plagiarism and preparedness for a western-style educational environ-
ment (Hellsten, 2002; McCulloch, 2012; Sawir, 2005; Wellman & Fallon, 2012). University
faculty and administrative personnel interviewed for this research noted that many interna-
tional students failed to reference their work appropriately. Students from some cultures have
been encouraged to reproduce the work of learned scholars, or to “cut and paste” without
acknowledging the source (Wong, 2004, p.163). This is unintentional plagiarism since they are
not familiar with a western, evidence-based approach. Our findings support those of others in
suggesting that international students are more likely to plagiarise unintentionally than inten-
tionally. Interviews conducted with the 14 students, who had faced an allegation of plagiarism
and gone through the CBS process to resolve it, revealed that many were unsure of how or
when to acknowledge the work of others or how to indicate ownership of knowledge. This is a
key cause of unintentional plagiarism.
It is not uncommon for commencing students to be unprepared or ill-informed about
institutional rules and practices and basic academic skills (Elander, Pittam, Lusher, Fox &
Payne, 2010). Various studies have highlighted the need for interventions and ongoing learning
support in regard to plagiarism and referencing skills (Maxwell, Curtis & Vardanega, 2008). In
the CBS, support is provided through workshops and one-on-one consultations to coach
students in plagiarism matters. However, because these services are not compulsory, some
students who might benefit do not attend and thus remain unaware of the significance of
plagiarism within the western educational context. This is a particular concern for postgraduate
students,3 who are expected to demonstrate high levels of academic writing and referencing
skills as per the plagiarism guidelines. Under the CBS regulations, students at the higher year
levels of study are more heavily penalised than those at the early stages of their study when
found to have plagiarised in comparatively similar ways. This is because they are expected to
be fully familiarised with university policies by this advanced stage in their studies.
We found that students facing plagiarism allegations experience feelings ranging from guilt
to disbelief and shame. The fallout from such allegations can be compounded for international
3 “Graduate” student in North American parlance.
390 Innov High Educ (2014) 39:387–400
students because the final outcome might result in loss of face (Sutherland-Smith, 2008),
shame to the family, and even a threat to their visa status. An essential requirement under the
mandatory conditions (Condition 8202) for holding an Australian study visa is that students
“… must maintain satisfactory attendance in your course and course progress for each study
period as required by your education provider” (Department of Immigration and Citizenship,
2012). If proved, a serious plagiarism allegation might mean the loss of a study visa. The stress
caused by the investigative process and outcomes can significantly affect a student’s emotional
state and academic performance. This possibility is particularly important for EAL students,
who may be ill-equipped linguistically to navigate the investigation process (Baird, 2010;
Bretag, 2007; Birrell, 2006; Coley, 1999; Dunworth, 2010; Sawir, 2005).
From an institutional perspective, there has been a shift in the approach to dealing with
issues of plagiarism from a punitive to an educative one (Macdonald & Carroll, 2006; Pecorari,
2003). The difficulties faced by international students in relation to plagiarism are said to often
be more pedagogical than moral (McCulloch, 2012). Given the manner in which policy drives
practice in higher education institutions, a study was conducted by the organisation formerly
known as the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) to review academic integrity
policies across the Australian tertiary sector. That study identified five core elements of
exemplary policy. These are access in that the policies are easy to locate and read, concise,
and comprehensible; approach in that the policies include a statement of purpose with an clear
educative focus throughout the policy statements; responsibility is taken by all stakeholders
including academic support staff; the detail is adequate but not excessive; and the final element
is support so as to ensure that proactive and embedded systems are in place to implement the
policy (Bretag et al., 2011).
The practical implementation of policies in a clear and transparent manner can be complex
and confusing with broad-ranging implications. For example, reporting incidents of alleged
plagiarism can be problematic (Sutherland-Smith, 2005) by setting in motion a train of events
(such as those required by the policies and procedures of Curtin University), which are not
readily reversed and can have far-reaching effects, such as the loss of the student’s study visa.
Reluctance to report cases of alleged plagiarism has been linked to concerns over revealing
personal inadequacies (Wellman & Fallon, 2012). The data we gathered for this study indicate
student confusion about referencing work, a situation that is further complicated by the English
language skills of some faculty members who may themselves experience difficulty with
providing adequate written feedback.
The growth of greater numbers of students needing academic language support has fre-
quently not been matched with an expansion of faculty members who are skilled in providing
such support, as noted by Sutherland Smith (2008, p.188) in saying that such staff are being
“thinly spread across a spectrum of student needs and unable to meet the demands”. This is
certainly the case at Curtin University, where some faculty members who work part-time
(known as sessionals) are being assigned to course-coordination roles but are not provided paid
time so as to offer academic writing support or coaching to students. In addition, such faculty
members are also required to develop assessment tasks for their course subject area, often
without training in ways to design such assessments so as to discourage or prevent plagiarism.
This combination of reduced academic writing support and the potential for assessment tasks to
be vulnerable to plagiarism puts students at risk. Therefore, a holistic approach is called for
(Devlin, 2003; Macdonald & Carroll, 2006; Sutherland-Smith, 2008) whereby all stakeholders
work together to ensure that assessment tasks are designed in ways that minimise the opportu-
nities for plagiarism to occur. In this way, those students identified as being at risk, particularly
EAL students or those who enter the university through non-traditional backgrounds, are
routinely referred to Academic Language and Learning support staff (Leask, 2006).
Innov High Educ (2014) 39:387–400 391
Dealing with Alleged Plagiarism
University staff may become indifferent when faced with poorly defined, time consuming
processes for detecting, reporting, and dealing with alleged plagiarism. Some staff members
have been known to “turn a blind eye” to low level plagiarism rather than having to deal with it
appropriately. This reaction has led to some students reaching an advanced stage of their
studies still unaware of appropriate practice and facing plagiarism allegations (Baird & Dooey,
2012). Ignoring low level plagiarism can lead to greater difficulties for students and staff when
students demonstrate the same plagiarism behaviours at higher levels of study when the
consequences are far more serious.
At Curtin University, plagiarism is classified using three levels of seriousness. It should be
noted, however, that for disciplinary purposes, Level I (minor/first time or unintentional
plagiarism) is not considered to be a serious issue and is not subject to any penalty; only a
warning and guidance is provided. Level II and Level III are regarded as more serious and as
such are subject to penalties. The University provides multiple resources that detail its rules
concerning plagiarism and ways to avoid inadvertent transgression of these rules. These
resources include a checklist to help prevent plagiarism (see Curtin University, 2011), course
outline materials (syllabi) online, and library resources. Students facing a plagiarism or
academic misconduct allegation are dealt with using a ten step process (Curtin University,
2012). This investigative process provides opportunities for students to explain matters that
may have influenced their behaviour. In this instance, it is international students who are most
impacted by cases of plagiarism allegations because their study visa is provisional on having
good course performance and a course exclusion penalty could see them returned to their home
The Point of Accusation
When accused of plagiarism by a faculty or staff member, some students say that they have
never been taught an evidence-based way of writing and that in their previous learning setting
and culture they did not have to acknowledge information sources in academic writing. Some
Curtin University students who have been granted advanced levels of enrolment after having
partially or fully completed degree studies overseas may not be conversant with referencing
requirements. Such students typically do not have academic skill levels comparable to those
who have undertaken all of their studies in Australia, and they often experience plagiarism
Language Skills
For international students, provision of proof of English language competency and the need to
interpret English language admissions criteria is a key requirement for enrolment in an
institution where English is the language of instruction, which is the case not only in
Australia but also beyond. Of particular concern are the difficulties faced by EAL students,
who struggle to cope with the linguistic demands of their courses (Coley, 1999; Oliver,
Vanderford & Grote, 2012). The International English Language Testing System, or IELTS,
(one of the most widely recognised international tests of English), has recommended that: “…
each individual institution should set its own minimum IELTS score for applicants, depending
on specific institutional and programme requirements” (IELTS, 2011, p.13). While such tests
have been available for many years as an indicator of readiness to begin studies in an English-
speaking environment, students (Sutherland-Smith, 2008) and even the receiving institutions
392 Innov High Educ (2014) 39:387–400
(Dunworth & Kirkpatrick, 2003) often believe that a minimum score on these tests reflects the
full range of linguistic skills required to succeed in their courses. Regrettably, this is not
necessarily the case. Further, a relatively small percentage of students actually use the IELTS
or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) as evidence of English language
proficiency upon enrolment. Many students enrol in courses via other pathways such as satellite
campus partnership arrangements involving overseas institutions. This research reported that
many students have poor English language skills, resulting in a failure to understand course
materials; assessment tasks; rules that govern writing structure and practice; and, quite often, the
concept of plagiarism. This problem appears to be a growing one in universities, particularly
those with a substantial number of international students (Baird & Dooey, 2012).
Study Skills
All but two of the 14 international students who participated in this research noted that their
earlier studies mostly entailed rote learning of facts and that referencing to them meant
mirroring the words of the teacher. Local students may also have this same misunderstanding
because they too may be unfamiliar with exactly what constitutes plagiarism and may not
know how to avoid it (Maxwell, Curtis & Vardanega, 2008). Missing from the experiences of
many students are specific study skills (Park, 2003) such as finding, analysing, using, and
referencing appropriate refereed source materials so as to construct a sound argument about
which they are able to express a view or make recommendations. This misunderstanding or
lack of skills can lead to inadvertent plagiarism through unsupported argument, the use of
materials without appropriate citation, or conscious misuse of materials due to not knowing
how to acknowledge those materials appropriately (Devlin & Gray, 2007). Even though
students are provided with all of the requisite information regarding rules and regulations,
simply directing them to electronic versions of plagiarism and academic integrity policies or
useful resources does not guarantee that students will access or use these resources.
International students struggling with English language issues are particularly vulnerable in
this regard.
Life Factors
Any student who undertakes studies in a country other than their own usually faces a range of
new experiences such as adapting to new foods, currency, language, behaviours, living
conditions, and transport systems. Such things can put great pressure on students living away
from home for the first time (Wellman & Fallon, 2012). Some students accused of plagiarism
cite these factors as contributing to study pressures that led to their transgression (Sutherland-
Smith, 2008). Some share assignments with other students or reuse their (or others’) earlier
works out of opportunity facilitated by living in shared accommodation where work sharing is
part of the collective culture. For some, this situation can result in plagiarism out of desperation
for fear of losing their study visas by not demonstrating progression in a course of study, or
they may have their enrolment placed on “conditional status.”
An Overview of Australian Practice
To contextualise the academic culture and approach taken by CBS for dealing with plagiarism,
we offer a brief overview of how the principal Australian universities deal with such matters
through their policies and procedures. Changes in government policies and funding in Australia
Innov High Educ (2014) 39:387–400 393
over about the last thirty years have brought about a shift from having colleges of advanced
education to having approved universities. Key to that growth was the presence of eight
foundation universities, each sited in a capital city or major centre. Those eight universities
have come to be called the “Group of Eight” (Go8). Many regard the Go8 institutions as
representing the best of Australian university practice, and they are thereby perceived as setting
standards of practice for others. For this reason, the policies and practices utilised by the Go8 for
dealing with plagiarism and academic misconduct are reviewed here so as to provide a broader
perspective and context for examining the approach taken by Curtin University.
While there are similarities in the overall Go8 approaches in regards to plagiarism, some
important differences exist. To explore these, each of the universities is addressed here by a
code number rather than its name. All eight define plagiarism in much the same way, and
mostly they treat unintentional or “ill-informed” or inexperienced (less than 24 months of
tertiary study) plagiarism in a low key, low (or no) penalty manner. Mostly the approach is
educative rather than punitive, with the emphasis on procedural justice and fairness through
highly communicative practices. The rights of individuals are articulated in policies that
govern every aspect of the procedures used to investigate and resolve academic misconduct
matters. All of the Go8 institutions provide legal and counselling support for students and staff
as part of their investigative decision-making and appeal practices so as to provide those facing
allegations with every opportunity to understand and deal with the legalities and stresses
associated with the processes. By comparison, Curtin University takes a very procedural
approach that does not necessarily include aspects of support and advice for students and
university staff in the manner of the national practices used by the Go8.
University 1 has an eight-stage procedure that begins with a thorough information gathering
exercise with a checklist to ensure procedural fairness in a reasonable time frame. The
espoused core value for this university is “academic honesty and integrity”. These terms are
used in all of its documents in preference to plagiarism as seen elsewhere. All stages in its
procedure are characterised by a constant exchange of information with any person accused of
plagiarism, whether through negligence or intention. Throughout the process, the person
facing an allegation is kept informed of what is happening and what the outcomes might be.
In low level cases a purely educative, counselling approach is taken; in cases of repeated or
higher level inappropriate conduct, actual penalties are applied, ranging from the downgrading
of marks to exclusion from courses.
The approach taken by University 1 is replicated by University 2 with the addition of an
academic conduct advisor appointed at the outset to assist the accused person at every stage of
the process. Their role is focussed on communicating and explaining each aspect of the
progress of the case while offering support services such as counselling and advocacy
personnel where appropriate (language matters, gender issues, cultural factors, financial
difficulties, and visa condition requirements). This approach is also seen in University 3,
which is a smaller institution that provides a high level of support for students generally and
continues that approach when dealing with alleged plagiarism. Its focus is on equity and
transparency in the review process. This is achieved by having very detailed procedures for
gathering information about any alleged plagiarism prior to the rendering of the accusation.
Preliminary investigations involve senior staff in the discipline who must report and inform the
student of the accusation, and the actions that will be taken to resolve it, within ten days of the
occurrence. The approach taken is to inform and educate with skills development being the
principal means for dealing with low level transgressions.
The next group of four universities comprises the oldest and largest university institutions in
Australia, which as such have high status in matters of academic integrity. Each of these has a
highly detailed and structured approach to dealing with matters of plagiarism with one in
394 Innov High Educ (2014) 39:387–400
particular having a nine-stage process focussed on clear communication and support. Each has
embedded in its policies and practices very detailed ways of ensuring procedural fairness and
an educative rather than a punitive approach. In particular, they all require initial investigations
to be completed within five days of the faculty or staff member reporting a potential instance of
plagiarism to a course coordinator or Head of School. Within that five day window, the
accused student must be informed by email of any accusation and invited to attend a meeting
to discuss their situation. Matters regarded as minor due to a student not realizing that their
actions were inappropriate result in them being placed on a register and being required to
undertake skills development. Major matters are dealt with through formal processes that may
result in the downgrading of marks or even exclusion [expulsion] from the institution. The
emphasis though is on keeping any accused person fully informed of their rights and
responsibilities while at the same time holding them accountable for their actions in a
supportive environment.
The final university in the Go8 examined here has a three stage process that differs from the
others in that it is streamlined to resolve matters quickly. To ensure that the process is fair and
transparent, the university appoints an officer at the outset of the case to manage every aspect
of the investigation (including checking for recidivists); this person has the responsibility of
keeping all parties informed within an overall timeline of twenty days for resolution. This
university has a more punitive than educative approach and as such applies a range of penalties
including substantial fines.
The overall plagiarism and academic integrity policies and practices used by the Go8
universities are representative of those used at all public Western Australian universities.
Across those universities there is variation in the levels of support provided to accused persons;
the level of communication provided throughout the process; and, very significantly, the
timing to resolve matters quickly while at the same time allowing those accused to respond
in an evidence-based manner with the aid of a representative. The changes we propose to the
way in which CBS implements the University’s plagiarism guidelines and resolution practices
would, we believe, align it better with the educative approach seen in the policies and practices
of the more student support focussed Go8 universities.
Plagiarism Resolution at the Curtin Business School
In the CBS, the process for addressing an accusation is as follows:
1. A Lecturer or Tutor identifies a student as having plagiarised on an assignment and
brings this accusation to the attention of the course co-ordinator.
2. The course co-ordinator, or other official, determines the nature of the alleged plagiarism
incident. If it is deemed to be plagiarism Level I, no formal action is taken; if plagiarism
Level II or Level III, then the following actions (noted as points 3 to 10 in this list) are
3. A report is sent to the Head of School together with documentation describing the
seriousness of the alleged plagiarism.
4. The Dean of Studies is provided with the report from the Head of School detailing the
accusation of plagiarism.
5. Upon review, the Dean of Studies lodges the relevant documentation on the Academic
Misconduct Register (AMR) and approves the student being notified of the plagiarism
6. The student is sent an official email detailing the allegation and given 7 days to respond.
Innov High Educ (2014) 39:387–400 395
7. Upon receipt of the accused student’s response, the Dean of Studies provides a report to
the Student Disciplinary Panel (SDP) for action.
8. Within 8 weeks the SDP must inform the student of their decision and penalty (if any) to
be applied.
9. The student has 14 days to appeal the decision.
10. The SDP reviews the appeal, decides an outcome, then sends formal notification by letter
to all relevant parties, noting the actions to be taken (e.g. Change of grade/remark/ANN
[Annulled from course]).
As can readily be seen in this ten stage process the accused student is not informed of the
alleged plagiarism until the fifth stage has been completed.
Improving the Process
In this article we propose a modification to the CBS process for resolving allegations of
plagiarism so as to have a more transparent, communicative and support focussed approach
than is currently used. Since research for this paper was undertaken, Curtin University has
introduced a revised plagiarism resolution procedure for staff (see Curtin 2013a) to be used in
conjunction with its (unchanged) plagiarism policy (Curtin 2013b). The new procedure does
not include having a person appointed to provide information and support to a student having
been accused of plagiarism, as we recommend in this article. The model proposed here for
achieving such support would be more closely aligned with the manner in which the
Australian Go8 universities operate. We propose that having a counselling-trained Academic
Integrity Officer (AIO) available to assist students through all stages of the investigative
process would significantly increase the level of support offered to students. The principal
role of the AIO would be to facilitate effective communication of all aspects of the alleged
plagiarism process to the student. The AIO would work to ensure that the student fully
understands what is taking place and why, to inform them about their rights and responsibil-
ities, and to assist them in accessing the support services available to help them. This approach
makes the process for dealing with plagiarism transparent and fair by keeping the student
informed at every stage, as well as monitoring their reactions and providing support in
response to any emergent needs they may have.
The stages of the official CBS plagiarism process as noted earlier are shown here again as
Table 1 with stages numbered 1-10. Alongside each stage is shown a proposed refinement of
the process designed to inform and support a student faced with a plagiarism allegation.
Application of This Model
Within Curtin University, and likely at other institutions as well, the procedures for resolving
issues of plagiarism and academic integrity are driven by institutional policy and generally
cannot be quickly or easily changed. What can be done however is to expand the level of
student support so as to ensure clarity of communication and the best possible outcome for a
student facing an allegation of plagiarism. The key element proposed here is to have a single
person consistently overseeing each stage of the official process while keeping the student
involved, informed, and supported. Doing so ensures continuity of practical and emotional
support for the student so as to avoid having any elements of the case falling through the
cracks and thus contributing to student attrition.
396 Innov High Educ (2014) 39:387–400
Table 1 Proposed model for supporting students facing alleged plagiarism
Current CBS Model Proposed Modification to Process
1. Lecturer/Tutor suspects plagiarism The student is informed of the plagiarism allegation at the
outset. An AIO is assigned to assist the student
through the remainder of the process.
2. Level I plagiarism, no formal action taken; if
plagiarism Level II or Level III, process continues.
The AIO confers with the tutor/lecturer, Unit Coordinator
(UC), and Head of School (HOS) to clarify the level of
seriousness of the allegation. The AIO informs the
student of the progression of the allegation.
3. Head of School documents allegation and level of
The AIO maintains contact with the HOS, and the
student. The AIO arranges assistance such as
counselling, academic skills support services or
language interpretation services for the student, if
4. Allegation escalated to Dean of Studies (DoS) The AIO communicates the progress of the allegation to
the student, and advises and assists them in preparing a
response if needed. Counselling referral is provided if
5. Dean of Studies registers allegation and approves
formal notification to student.
The AIO works with the student to review the DoS report
and assist them in preparing their defence. If needed,
the AIO arranges counselling and language
interpretation services to ensure the student is
appropriately supported and is fully aware of the
nature of the allegations and the potential
6. The student is officially notified of the allegation
and given 7 days to respond.
The AIO ensures that the student monitors their official
email so as to respond immediately to any relevant
communication. When official documentation arrives,
the AIO should assist the student in understanding the
nature of the allegation and help them to gather
relevant evidence in defence of their situation.
7. The Dean of Studies reports to the Student
Disciplinary Panel (SDP) for resolution of the
The AIO must now meet with the DoS to be briefed on
any new developments regarding the allegation with a
view to pre-arranging any additional student support
counselling or other possible representation needed.
The allegation might have been upgraded to a Level
III, and thus a higher level of student representation
(legal) may be warranted.
8. The SDP decides on the outcome, and informs the
student via the OCC.
The AIO should assist the student in understanding the
official communication in terms of the nature of the
allegation and the penalties being imposed. The AIO
must now work with the student to prepare an appeal
(if appropriate) and arrange any additional support or
counselling as required. Items that may affect the
response here could include visa issues, language
issues, cultural and political implications, or matters
concerning the completion of a course of study. Duty
of care must be observed.
9. The student has 14 days to appeal the SDP
The AIO must stay in contact with the student to ensure
that they are coping emotionally with the stress of the
process and are managing all other aspects of their
study. The AIO must also stay in touch with the
Course Coordinator throughout the entire process in
order to ensure that the student remains active in their
attendance and continuity of participation in their
Innov High Educ (2014) 39:387–400 397
The implementation of such an approach requires a review process to gauge the effective-
ness of the support provided and the value to all stakeholders. Implementation of this model
needs to occur in concert with an on-going evaluation process so as to determine that the
approach does indeed assist students in a way that reduces their stress and leads to more
informed resolution for all parties. One way to evaluate the model’s effectiveness would be to
conduct information gathering sessions at the end of one teaching period of implementation.
To be effective this assessment should involve all of the staff members who oversee the CBS
process and also the students who experience a plagiarism allegation. Some students continue
to plagiarise after having been through an alleged plagiarism event. Indeed, recidivist miscon-
duct students do appear, but in smaller numbers than “first time offenders.” Interviewing
students immediately following resolution of their misconduct allegation is likely to provide
useful data for the evaluation of the effectiveness of the model. Feedback for second time
offenders may offer insights into aspects of the support approach that are not assisting students
to modify their behaviours. A summative assessment to evaluate the efficacy of the new
approach could take the form of a simple survey of students and staff who experience the
process during the implementation period. This could be a formal part of the new procedure,
thus providing immediate feedback to all faculty and staff members involved in dealing with
plagiarism allegations. Such a process could also include a follow-up interview for students
and thus another level of quality assurance to the process.
This study has taken place in a university business school but has application to any
discipline area in a university or college setting. The problems are the same in all disciplines in
that the central issue is how students deal with an evidence-based approach to writing and use
of intellectual property. Our concern is with how the institution keeps students informed of the
plagiarism resolution process and how well supported those students are, particularly when
they are international students who may have issues with language and culture that impact on
their understanding and ability to cope with alleged plagiarism.
Conclusion and recommendations
At Curtin University the current disciplinary processes for dealing with cases of alleged
plagiarism provide little in the way of information or support to students from commencement
to resolution. The CBS process is not educative in that the focus is on investigation and
Table 1 (continued)
Current CBS Model Proposed Modification to Process
10. The outcome letter is sent to all relevant parties
and the appropriate action is taken
The AIO must meet with the student to assist them in
understanding the content of the official
communication and the ramifications of the penalty
incurred. Additional support for the student may be
offered at this stage to ensure that the student can cope
emotionally with the outcomes and, if appropriate,
provide assistance in planning and implementing
actions to maintain their ongoing studies. Such support
must include student participation in activities that
guide their learning in ways to ensure that they are
fully informed of how to perform in accordance with
academic integrity standards and practices as required
by the university.
398 Innov High Educ (2014) 39:387–400
penalty, rather than on developing student understanding and plagiarism avoidance skills.
While the ideal is to minimise the number of incidents of plagiarism, they are still likely to
occur. Several factors come into play here, which include lack of awareness of expectations,
rights and responsibilities; lack of understanding of how to interpret plagiarism monitoring
procedures; inadequate preparation for tertiary studies in a western educational environment;
and, frequently, insufficient English skills to deal with the demands of tertiary study. In
accepting students, the institution has a responsibility to work to ensure that they have
appropriate English language skills and awareness of the conventions of tertiary study,
particularly in regard to academic integrity matters. Given the increasing diversity of students,
inclusive support services need to embrace all aspects of tertiary teaching and learning in the
context of the institutions’ culture of practice. Reducing the incidences of plagiarism and the
impact on students of dealing with them is vital to ensuring quality learning experiences and
reduced student attrition.
The model we have proposed for supporting students through the process of dealing with
alleged plagiarism is aimed at keeping them fully informed of what is going on and what their
options are, while offering timely support where appropriate. We believe that we have an
ethical obligation to students to approach these issues positively and constructively, and we
encourage other institutions that may be reviewing their academic integrity and plagiarism
procedures to consider implementation of a positive and educative approach.
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400 Innov High Educ (2014) 39:387–400
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Ensuring Effective Student Support in Higher Education Alleged Plagiarism Cases
Causes of Plagiarism and Related Issues
Processes and the Study
Dealing with Alleged Plagiarism
The Point of Accusation
Language Skills
Study Skills
Life Factors
An Overview of Australian Practice
Plagiarism Resolution at the Curtin Business School
Improving the Process
Application of This Model
Conclusion and recommendations
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A Content Analysis of the Content Analysis Literature in Organization …
Duriau, Vincent J;Reger, Rhonda K;Pfarrer, Michael D
Organizational Research Methods; Jan 2007; 10, 1; ProQuest
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