This page was designed to assist faculty who suspect a student has plagiarized. While the university is making better efforts to educate students regarding plagiarism and how to avoid it (see the Plagiarism Education web page), it is possible that teaching faculty will encounter students who commit acts of plagiarism (whether it is done intentionally or through a lack of understanding of good research and writing skills). When a faculty member has suspicions, the following information should help guide him/her through the process and policy for dealing with student plagiarism at Kent State University. Policy 3342-3-01.8 in the policy register addresses student cheating and plagiarism. Flowcharts are also available, diagramming the process for both Kent Campus and Regional Campus faculty.
If you suspect a student has plagiarized ...
It is always a good idea to have evidence to back up a claim of plagiarism. Blackboard Learn has a component available to KSU faculty called SafeAssign that can be used to detect elements of plagiarism in student writing. If you are interested in using this tool you can learn more about how SafeAssign works and how to create SafeAssignments. Another way to check to see if a student has plagiarized something published on the internet is to copy and paste suspicious phrases or passages of student work into a simple Google search. Be sure to include those phrases or passages in quotation marks. This is often the most common method for catching plagiarizers. Still, faculty should know that there are fairly sophisticated methods for students to plagiarize that are not so easy to detect. If you do discover documented sources that have been plagiarized, be sure to copy and retain them in case you are asked to provide evidence that the student plagiarized (at a hearing, for instance).
If you are prepared to accuse the student of plagiarizing then you must inform the student of your suspicions and offer the student the chance to respond (either verbally or in writing). This can be difficult if the suspected assignment is handed in and graded after the course is no longer meeting (a term paper due at the end of the semester, for example). Still, an effort should be made to give the student an opportunity to respond before a sanction is applied. If the student's response to your accusation does not convince you that this is not an act of plagiarism (or the student confesses that is is an act of plagiarism), you need to consider which of the following three sanctions to apply:
- Refuse to accept the work for credit. (The student would have to redo the work in it's entirety in order for it to count as coursework for the class.)
- Assign a grade of F or zero for the assignment.
- Assign grade of F for the course.
In addition, if you feel that the sanctions above are not sufficient to address the severity of the act, you can recommend to your department chair or dean that additional academic sanctions be applied. If the chair or dean agrees, the dean of the college in which the student is enrolled (or the Associate Provost for Regional Campuses, for regional campus students) may invoke these additional academic sanctions:
- Revocation or recommendation to decertify or not to certify; or
- Rejection of the thesis, dissertation or work; or
- Recommendation for revocation of a degree
Finally, if you, your chair or dean, or the dean of the college in which the student is enrolled (all limited to the academic sanction listed above) feel further sanctions should be considered, the matter can be referred to the Academic Hearing Panel for disciplinary actions (such as probation, suspension, or dismissal from the university).
Sanctioning a student ...
It is important that faculty report all cases of student plagiarism. Sometimes out of sympathy for a student or to avoid the official reporting and adherence to the process faculty choose to deal with cases of plagiarism outside the policy. This is strongly discouraged for several reasons:
- If, as President Lefton has stated, "Academic honesty is the academy's most cherished value," not reporting acts of plagiarism diminishes the accomplishments of student who not not commit such acts
- Students who plead to an instructor not to report them may well have committed acts of plagiarism in the past and could continue to plagiarize in the future
- Not reporting an act of plagiarism deprives other faculty and the institution in general of vital information relevant to the student's academic performance
- If there is concern that a student is simply a poor researcher or writer, Plagiarism School is an option that should be considered (see below)
- It could be argued that any faculty member who is convinced a student has plagiarized and chooses not to report it may him or herself be committing a form of academic dishonestly
Once you have decided on a sanction and whether or not to recommend additional degree sanctions to your chair or dean and/or disciplinary sanctions to the Academic Hearing Panel, you must complete the online Cheating/Plagiarism Sanction Form. The form can be found by logging into Flashline and clicking on the Faculty and Advisor Tools tab. The form is located in the Policy Quick Links channel/box located at the lower left side of the page.After submitting the online form, The Office of Student Conduct will submit the information you entered on the form to the following individuals
If you are recommending disciplinary sanctions, the information will also be forwarded to the Academic Hearing Panel. If the student was sanctioned for plagiarism in the past and was not successful in appealing that sanction, whether or not you choose to recommend disciplinary action, the information will be forwarded to the Academic Hearing Panel and a hearing will be held where disciplinary sanctions could be applied. In other words, repeat plagiarizers are automatically subject to disciplinary sanctions. Degree-related sanctions are considered by the dean of the college in which the student is enrolled.
- The student you are accusing of plagiarism
- Your chair or dean (for independent colleges and regional campuses)
- The dean of the college in which the student is enrolled
If the student appeals ...
Students who are sanctioned for plagiarism have the right to appeal. The Office of Student Affairs will provide the notice to students who are sanctioned of their right to appeal within 15 days and the process for filing an appeal. Appeals will be heard by the Academic Hearing Panel. It is important that you retain any documentation related to the act that resulted in the student being sanctioned. At an appeals hearing you will need to establish by a preponderance of evidence that the student plagiarized. Should the student win the appeal, you do have the right to appeal the decision of the Academic Hearing Board to the Provost. However, this level of appeal is restricted to the following reasons:
- The decision was not in accordance with the evidence presented
- The decision was reached through a procedure not in accordance with this rule
- New information is available which may suggest modification of the decision
- Sanctions(s) imposed were not appropriate for the conduct violation which the student was found responsible for
Plagiarism School ...
If you feel that the act of plagiarism committed by the student was more a result of poor research and/or writing skills and not a deliberate act of academic dishonesty, you should consider offering Plagiarism School as a way to mitigate the sanction you have applied. Plagiarism School is only offered to first time offenders. It is a way to create an positive educational moment out of something that usually has a negative impact on the student. Both you and the student would have to agree on Plagiarism School and fill out the Plagiarism School Form. The form will indicate how you plan to mitigate the sanction. For example, if your original sanction was to fail the student for the assignment, you could offer allowing the student to revise the assignment, removing the plagiarized parts, for a better grade after completing Plagiarism School. Please consult the Plagiarism School web page for more information.