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Handling Plagiarism and Cheating

You've done your best to prevent plagiarizing and cheating in your class, yet you receive a project that appears quite different in quality and style from the student's past work. You have a strong hunch that your student "borrowed" the concept from someone else or "lifted" the design outright. What should you do?

It's important to understand the reasons behind cheating behavior. It's also vital to help students understand the consequences of cheating at the Academy and beyond, so that they can get the full benefit of an AAU education and succeed in their future endeavors.

Unless you have evidence, remember that your hunch is still a hunch. You need to find out if your concern is on the mark. If the work is written, find a unique or unusual phrase and type it into Google (in quotes) to see if it comes up embedded in existing, published work. If it's visual work, try a Google image search under appropriate key words to see if it was directly copied or taken a little too far. Also share the case with a few colleagues to get their "read" on the piece. An assignment that's been recycled from one class to another without express permission is also considered cheating.

Communicate with the student privately about the piece in question. Ask students for sketches and/or background work, or have the student talk through their process. You might ask, "I'm curious about why the style of this piece is so unlike anything else I've seen from you... Where did you find your inspiration?"

If you're convinced the student has plagiarized, then remind students of the Academic Honesty Policy and the serious consequences for plagiarism, including suspension and dismissal.

Each department will address plagiarism cases differently. Check with your department for their policy and make your director aware of any incidents of academic dishonesty on written or art/design projects. In some cases, the director will give the student verbal warning. In other cases, the director will complete an Academy Preliminary Event Report that will go in the student's file if cheating or plagiarism has occurred.

Resources

When Does A Copy Become Plagiarism?

Technology-Enhanced Cheating

Dealing with Plagiarism

Deterring and Detecting Plagiarism