1 in 6 admits to cheating

March 17, 2006

One in six students admits to copying from friends and one in ten confesses to looking for essays online, the most extensive poll ever conducted on student cheating in universities has revealed.

The UK-wide survey, commissioned by The Times Higher , also found that four in ten students claim to know someone on campus who has passed off someone else's work as their own. The poll of 1,022 undergraduates at 119 institutions was carried out this month by the market research firm Opinionpanel Research.

Male students are more likely than females to copy work from colleagues, with 21 per cent of men admitting to cheating in this way compared with 14 per cent of women.

Male students are also more likely than their female peers to copy when completing group tasks. Some 45 per cent of male students admitted to cheating in collaborative work, compared with just 29 per cent of female students.

Far more students admit to copying ideas than to copying text. Some 37 per cent said they had copied ideas from books, and 35 per cent admitted to copying from online sources. Only 3 per cent of students admitted copying text word for word from a book or an online source.

Third-years are most likely to know someone who has plagiarised work - 54 per cent know someone who has cheated, followed by second-years at 43 per cent and first-years at 34 per cent.

Responding to the findings, Jean Underwood, an expert on plagiarism based at Nottingham Trent University, said: "Society has to see plagiarism as a real issue, rather like drink driving. It is only when the majority see this as unacceptable that it will be brought under control. At the moment, giving a child, whether he or she is 12 or 20, a competitive edge through malpractice is seen as legitimate by many."

Handing in essays found online and copying text word for word from a book or from an online source were counted as plagiarism by 95 per cent of students. Three quarters of students considered copying from a friend plagiarism.

Fiona Duggan, an adviser on plagiarism issues based at Northumbria University, said: "The survey shows that students recognise that the more serious offences are acts of plagiarism, but they have more difficulty distinguishing between collusion and collaboration.

"Universities should be looking at what kind of guidance they give students so that they are sure that students understand what is and what is not acceptable."

The results come just days after Alan Grafen, senior proctor at Oxford University, warned that widespread plagiarism threatened the value of an Oxford degree. Students were quizzed online for the survey, which was conducted early this month.


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