Tackling Plagiarism in College. How University of the People Joins the Fight

We all know it’s wrong to take something that isn’t yours. Whether it’s a personal belonging or a work of art or idea. Credit and permission is always due to the rightful owner or creator. Yet, across universities and out in the world, plagiarism is still an increasingly widespread issue.


In fact, out of a survey of nearly 64,000 students in American universities, 38% of students admit to “paraphrasing/copying a few sentences from a written source without footnoting it.”


In order to understand if you have plagiarized, it’s useful to know the definition. It’s often understood as simply copying work without giving credit, but there’s more to it than that.



Plagiarism Defined:

Merriam-Webster defines plagiarism as the following:

  • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own
  • to use (another’s production) without crediting the source
  • to commit literary theft
  • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source


Plagiarism is such a serious act of fraud that it’s even outlined by the U.S. government. Forms of expression and ideas are protected under copyright laws.


But, of course, ideas and thoughts can be adapted and innovated upon, so how do you know what is plagiarism versus inspiration?



Source: Unsplash



The Prevalence of the Problem

Globally, plagiarism is a far-reaching problem. The Center for Academic Integrity found that “almost 80% of college students cheat at least once.” While some people have their friends write their essays for them or cheat on a test, others actually hire people to do their work for them, which is a form of plagiarism called contract cheating.


The companies that provide this service are called essay mills, and research shows that 1 in 7, or about 31 million students around the world, have paid someone to write their work for them. Although these companies have people writing your essay for you and may not actually be plagiarizing the content, it is still cheating because you’re taking credit for work you didn’t do.


And, there are different forms of plagiarism that may be less widely known and recognized to be cheating.


Here’s a brief list of what’s considered to be plagiarizing:

  • Submitting someone else’s work as your own
  • Copying ideas without giving credit
  • Leaving out quotation marks when quoting someone’s words
  • Inadequately sourcing a quote
  • Copying the sentence structure with different words and no credit
  • Copying words or ideas from another source in bulk or small snippets


Students are most often caught for plagiarism because of ignorance rather than having committed the act on purpose. Additionally, because there’s an increase in access to information with the internet, it’s becoming easier and more common for plagiarism to happen.


Out of both fairness and safety to avoid the detrimental consequences of plagiarizing, here are a few ways to prevent plagiarism:

  • Outline your work and include all sources of information during this step
  • Cite sources always with adequate information from credible sources
  • If you quote something, be sure to include quotation marks and share the source
  • Highlight the sources that support your ideas/ give credit where credit is due

Consequences of Plagiarism

If you are caught and accused of plagiarism, there are many far-reaching consequences that can negatively affect both your academic career, as well as your future profession.


  • You can receive no credit or a fail grade for your work assignment
  • You can fail the course and have to retake it
  • You can be expelled or suspended from your university


Therefore, it’s important to really take the time to create original work and ensure you’re properly citing your sources.


Source: Unsplash



How University of the People is Fighting Plagiarism

Some people don’t even know they are plagiarizing or committing any wrongful act. For example, in some countries and cultures students are recommended to submit work with copied texts without needing to reference the source.


University of the People is tackling plagiarism in various ways to help prevent it from happening. Here’s how we’re doing it:



1. Creating understanding and awareness:


We do this by creating common ground through education and visibility. We do this in the orientation, in our catalogs, via emails and in our policies.



2. Monitor:


This is our new initiative for 2018 through automation and peer to peer review.


A. Automation:


We’re instituting an automatic system in Moodle (our learning management system) that will flag any suspected plagiarised work.


By using a market leading innovative tool called Unicheck, the system scans content automatically to look for any copied snippets of work.



B. Peer-to-Peer Review:

Along with automation, we are using the power of people. With peer-to-peer student review, we’ll provide a safe platform for students to help flag any work that seems questionable.

When students grade each other’s work (with instructor supervision) there is always several extra eyes on the lookout for acts of plagiarism.

C. Review:


UoPeople has a dedicated academic oversight board to handle all instances of plagiarism.



3. Enforcement:


UoPeople takes plagiarism very seriously. If you are caught plagiarising, your violation will be dealt with in the following way:


A. Failing Your Assignment


Your course instructor can instantly fail your assignment and will notify faculty affairs for their review.


B. Failing Your Course


Faculty affairs could then increase your punishment and give you a failing grade for the whole course.


C. Escalation to Student Services:


If the violation is deemed severe it will be expedited to student services who will require a response from the student before presenting it to Student affairs for a decision.


D. Suspension/Expulsion


Student services then review the case and vote on the punishment which could be academic suspension or even dismissal.



Full details of this can be found in the Code of Academic Integrity in the Catalog.



Why It’s Important to Act

At the University of the People, our accredited and tuition-free online degrees position our students for careers in various professions in the modern, globalized environment.


We promote and aim for the highest quality from our courses, students, and instructors and all high quality of work produced is of paramount importance.


To maintain this quality we are doing everything we can to educate and support our students in creating original work to breed innovative ideas and prepare them for a successful future.


Also because we have peer-to-peer reviews our students are given a key role in the fight against plagiarism while our automated tool helps support this by eliminating anything that may have been missed.



The Good News…

While plagiarism is a seriously widespread issue, it’s completely avoidable if you understand its definition, and how to prevent it.


Additionally, if you’re ever unsure, you can always consult a professor, ask a fellow student, reach out to your instructor or program advisor, research on the internet, and ultimately, if you’re still in doubt, cite the source!


Remember: plagiarism is stealing. Just because it’s not physical, it doesn’t make it any less of a crime. It harms your friends and fellow students by cheating them out of the grades they deserve with their original ideas. And ultimately, it harms yourself.


At University of the People, we pride ourselves on the high quality of education we provide students, and on fighting Plagiarism, enabling all students to get the best education possible.

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