Professors’ perceptions of university students’ plagiarism: A literature review


[Versió catalana]

Debora Gottardello

PhD Student
Universitat Rovira i Virgili

Maria del Mar Pàmies

Universitat Rovira i Virgili

Mireia Valverde

Universitat Rovira i Virgili



Objectives: This paper aims to identify and critically evaluate the extant knowledge about professors’ perceptions of university students’ plagiarism. A clearer comprehension of these perceptions will allow us to forward the literature on this topic by pointing avenues for further research and policy.

Methodology: We explored professors' perception of student plagiarism through an integrative literature review. To undertake this review, we searched the literature from 2000 to 2016 using a range of keyword combinations related to professors’ perception of plagiarism. Inclusion and exclusion criteria were implemented to choose abstracts and then full papers. In order to ensure the rigor of the review, we also employed a systematic analytical framework.

Results: The twenty-two studies identified revealed greatly contrasting and uneven perceptions about students' plagiarism among professors. Our findings indicate that it is necessary to focus not only on professors’ perceptions of what plagiarism is as a concept, but also to map to what extent this is an important, prevalent and severe issue for them. In the same vein, we highlight that such perceptions and the causes professors attribute to the reasons why students plagiarise may have a strong relationship with the actions they ultimate undertake to deal with this issue. Finally, we reflect on the additional problems caused by inconsistent implementation of responses to plagiarism at all academic levels.


Objetivos. Este artículo tiene como objetivo identificar y evaluar de manera crítica la investigación realizada hasta el momento sobre las diferentes percepciones que tiene el profesorado respecto al plagio cometido por el alumnado universitario. Un conocimiento profundo de estos puntos de vista debe servir para ampliar la bibliografía sobre el tema y abrir nuevos caminos que permitan continuar haciendo investigación y diseñando políticas.

Metodología. Se han analizado las diversas opiniones que tiene el profesorado sobre el plagio de los estudiantes universitarios por medio de una revisión bibliográfica integral. Se ha investigado la bibliografía publicada entre el 2000 y el 2016 usando una serie de combinaciones de palabras clave relacionadas con las percepciones del plagio que tienen los profesores. Se han aplicado criterios de inclusión y de exclusión para elegir resúmenes y, si eran pertinentes, artículos enteros. Con objeto de garantizar el rigor del estudio también se ha utilizado un marco analítico sistemático.

Resultados. Los veintidós artículos seleccionados demuestran que el profesorado entiende de muchas maneras el plagio cometido por los alumnos. Los resultados de este estudio indican que, además de investigar sobre las diferentes ideas que los profesores tienen del plagio como concepto, también hay que estudiar hasta qué punto consideran que los casos de plagio son importantes, frecuentes y graves. Así mismo, se hace énfasis en el profundo vínculo que puede haber entre las percepciones y los motivos que los profesores atribuyen al plagio cometido por el alumnado, por un lado, y las medidas que acaban aplicando para afrontar este problema, de la otra. Finalmente, se exponen problemas adicionales que resultan de la incoherencia de las diversas respuestas que se dan para abordar el plagio en todos los niveles académicos.


Objectius. Aquest article té com a objectiu identificar i avaluar de manera crítica la recerca feta fins ara sobre les diferents percepcions que té el professorat respecte del plagi comès per l’alumnat universitari. Un coneixement profund d’aquests punts de vista ha de servir per ampliar la bibliografia sobre el tema i obrir nous camins que permetin continuar fent recerca i dissenyant polítiques.

Metodologia. S’han analitzat les diverses opinions que té el professorat sobre el plagi dels estudiants universitaris per mitjà d’una revisió bibliogràfica integral. S’ha investigat la bibliografia publicada entre el 2000 i el 2016 fent servir una sèrie de combinacions de paraules clau relacionades amb les percepcions del plagi que tenen els professors. S’han aplicat criteris d’inclusió i d’exclusió per triar resums i, si eren pertinents, articles sencers. A fi de garantir el rigor de l’estudi també s’ha utilitzat un marc analític sistemàtic.

Resultats. Els vint-i-dos articles seleccionats demostren que el professorat entén de moltes maneres el plagi comès pels alumnes. Els resultats d’aquest estudi indiquen que, a banda d’investigar sobre les diferents idees que els professors tenen del plagi com a concepte, també cal estudiar fins a quin punt consideren que els casos de plagi són importants, freqüents i greus. Així mateix, es fa èmfasi en el profund lligam que pot haver-hi entre les percepcions i els motius que els professors atribueixen al plagi comès per l’alumnat, d’una banda, i les mesures que acaben aplicant per afrontar aquest problema, de l’altra. Finalment, s’exposen problemes addicionals que resulten de la incoherència de les diverses respostes que es donen per abordar el plagi en tots els nivells acadèmics.


1 Introduction

University student plagiarism is considered a major problem and a serious breach of academic standards that jeopardizes the quality of the courses offered, the validity and applicability of the codes of honour and the reputation of universities in general (Luke & Kearins, 2012; Park, 2004). This concern has been expressed by many scholars, pointing that such wrongdoing in academia calls for a review of institutional procedures with the aim of improving practices and universities’ codes of conduct (Duggan, 2007). Plagiarism is conceptualised as the theft of others’ words or ideas without citing the proper reference and thus without giving the accurate credit to the original author (Risquez, Dwyer and Ledwith, 2011; Ruipérez and García-Cabrero, 2016).

Research on university student plagiarism has sharply increased in recent years. This has been accompanied by an on-going debate within universities and related institutions. Accordingly, it has been a prolific research field marked by related but distinct lines of investigation. However, the vast majority of research concerning students’ plagiarism has focused mainly on student understandings of plagiarism (Ashworth, Bannister and Thorne, 1997; Gullifer & Tyson, 2010; Mavrinac et al., 2010), its incidence (Bing et al., 2012; Flint, Clegg, & Macdonald, 2006) and its determinants (Bennett, 2005; Park, 2003; Rettinger and Jordan, 2005).

Another important line of enquiry has focused on the tools to detect plagiarism, such as Turnitin (Batane, 2010; Chapman, Davis, Toy, & Wright, 2004) and the broader institutional policies set in place in order to deal with this problem (Arce Espinoza & Monge Najera, 2015; Flint et al., 2006). Despite the fact that the figure of the professor has been acknowledged to be central in dealing with this problem, the study about such central role of professors in relation to students’ plagiarism has been less popular (Bruhn, Al-Kazemi, & Prescott, 2002).

An associated challenge with the plagiarism literature is a widespread disagreement regarding the very definition of plagiarism. This is reflected in diverse perceptions about what plagiarism is among students (Gullifer & Tyson, 2010) and even among professors (Sutherland-Smith, 2005). This shortcoming brings about an important dispersion about what actions are needed when faced with plagiarism and when they need to be implemented. Thus, the development of an adequate understanding of plagiarism as a form of academic misconduct continues to be advocated by many scholars (Gunnarsson, Kulesza, & Pettersson, 2014).

In this paper, we take up the calls for more emphasis on the professors’ role and for exploring the connections between the various conceptualisations about what constitutes plagiarism, its manifestations, and related actions to deal with it. Therefore, the aim of this review is to identify and critically evaluate the existing primary research related to professors’ perceptions of university students’ plagiarism. A clearer comprehension of these perceptions will allow us to forward the literature on this topic by pointing avenues for further research and policy.

In order to achieve this aim, we review the contributions of the literature related to professors’ perception of university student plagiarism between 2000 and 2016. With this, we expect to offer a comprehensive overview of the work carried out to date and what future prospects may be contemplated in this regard. Furthermore, we pose some recommendations related for future research on this topic.


2 Methodology

For the search and analysis, we used an integrative literature review, which allows to simultaneously include experimental and non-experimental research and to combine readings and data from the theoretical (if present) and empirical literature (Whittemore and Knafl, 2005). This approach is pertinent when the objective of the research is to summarise and analyse the literature on a phenomenon of concern and to include diverging perspectives about a topic (Bandara, Furtmueller, Gorbacheva, Miskon and Beekhuyzen, 2015). In the next subsections, we detail our search procedure, the characteristics of the sample obtained and the analytical approach undertaken.


2.1 Search procedure

In order to carry out this literature review, we limited the search to articles published in the period between 2000 and 2016. This time framework was set up because it mirrored the development of new technologies. In fact, although plagiarism is a much older phenomenon, its current form and incidence is associated with the use of internet among students, which has become an indispensable tool in the educational context since the second half of the 1990s, allowing students to find and gather a great variety of information sources in order to carry out their university assignments. Thus, a corpus of research in this form is clearly identifiable since 2000.

The search was carried out within the databases Scopus and Web of Sciences, as they both include peer reviewed studies and contain top tier journals. We used Boolean combination with related search queries such as plagiarism AND higher education OR universities AND professors OR teachers OR faculty OR staff AND perception. Although we originally had planned to circumscribe our search within the fields of Education and Librarianship, we eventually opened up this inclusion criterion to all fields and obtained additional results mainly from Sociology, Medicine and Management.

The initial literature search in the two databases turned out a similar number of articles (Scopus 196 and Web of Science 216). The duplicates were eliminated, with a collection of 241 non-duplicate citations screened. A first round of exclusions was carried out on the basis of relevance for our topic upon reading the title and the abstract of the articles initially obtained. In this process, 116 articles were excluded as they were not relevant to the investigation, leaving a remainder of 125 for full text analysis. The 125 articles were fully read to be assessed for eligibility by two of the authors. With full agreement, it was found that 79 did not focus on professors’ perception but rather on students or other agents’ perceptions and 24 analysed professors’ instead of students’ plagiarism. Thus, 22 articles were finally included for the literature review. The articles selected include those covering solely professors’ perception of students’ plagiarism and those dealing with the perceptions of both professors and students. The overall process is presented as a PRISMA flow-chart (Liberati et al., 2009) in Figure 1.


Figure 1: PRISMA flow chart for the selection of studies on professors’ perceptions of university students’ plagiarism.

Figure 1: PRISMA flow chart for the selection of studies on professors’ perceptions of university students’ plagiarism.


2.2 Sample obtained

The total of 22 studies included for this review represent a quite small proportion of the articles dealing with perceptions of plagiarism, proving our starting point that the specific study of perceptions of professors is an under-researched area. In this section, we provide a characterisation of the sample obtained in terms of outlet of publication, chronological characteristics and geographic distribution. These characteristics, alongside other features of this collection of articles, are compiled in Table 1, Annex 1.

The outlets of publication of these 22 articles was quite widespread, and only one journal included a significant proportion (more than a fourth) of the papers analysed: Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education (n=6), while The Journal of Higher Education did so to a much lesser extent (n=3). The remaining 13 papers were located in different journals, mainly but not exclusively from the field of Educational Sciences. 

Regarding the chronological characteristics of the sample of 22 papers, we can observe that the topic was not really dealt with until 2005: although our search starts in 2000, there are only two articles before 2005. The interest on the perceptions of professors has subsequently grown and become more stable in the last decade (see Table 1).

An interesting feature of this collection of papers, which connects its chronological and geographical characteristics, is the fact that the very few papers whose empirical work has been carried out outside English-speaking countries (n=4), have only appeared since 2010. The supremacy of Anglophone contributions on this topic is thus notable. Also, because of the small number of non-English-speaking countries papers, we were not able to use their country of origin as a variable for the analysis of the papers, even though it is clear upon reading them that national culture would be a relevant factor for studying the plagiarism phenomenon.

However, perhaps the most salient characteristic within this sample of papers is the scattered nature of this academic contributions, not only in terms of the different outlets where they appear published, but mainly in the shortcoming consisting on the scarcity of papers that build up knowledge from previous work. To redress this deficiency is precisely one of the objectives of this article.


2.3 Analysis

In order to ensure the rigour of the review, a systematic analytical framework, on which we have based our results section, was employed (Whittemore and Knafl, 2005). This framework was developed by the authors after a first round of separately open-analysing (Strauss & Corbin, 1990) a subsample of ten papers. After the framework was agreed, two of the authors axial-analysed all the papers according to the four categories that had been generated. Finally, the third author collated the two separate codebooks, where there was maximum agreement, and revised the codes. Because of the neutral nature of the topic of study, agreement throughout the final coding process was almost total.


3 Results

The overall theme that arises from this revision of the literature is the striking degree of discrepancy in professors’ perceptions. With the aid of our analytical framework, we have separated them in four elements: perceptions about the actual concept of plagiarism, about its prevalence and severity, about its likely causes, and the relationship between such perceptions and the ensuing actions undertaken by professors. We now examine them in turn. 


3.1 Perceptions about the concept of plagiarism

Although a common notion of plagiarism is taking credit for someone else’s work (Bennett et al., 2011), as with a lot of the literature on plagiarism that focuses on students’ perceptions, the analysis of our sample of 22 papers is characterised by an important diversity of concepts of what professors consider to be plagiarism. For example, in their semi-structured interviews with a sample of professors from different departments, disciplinary areas and profiles (part-time, staff teaching undergraduates, postgraduates, etc.), Flint et al. (2006) evaluated lecturers’ perceptions and knowledge about practices that were considered plagiarism. They found important and mismatched differences about their interpretation of plagiarism in particular and cheating in general, regardless of the disciplinary context or any other characteristic. In the same vein, Borg’s (2009) assessment of professors’ concepts of plagiarism highlighted not only the existence of widespread differences, but also institutional efforts to define plagiarism and manage it. However, he did identify that some of these differences were due to the disciplinary field of professors: for example, according to professors in humanities, plagiarism exists when there is a substantial reproduction of passages or whole sentences or when there are parts of the texts that have been lifted without being adapted. Instead, professors in the faculty of history did not tend to see the use of others’ works with such a severe eye. On the other hand, professors in law consider that there is plagiarism even when students discuss their written assignments with other students. And yet, in fashion design, professors consider that copying and borrowing are acceptable practices if it is done in a responsible manner. At the other extreme we can find studies carried out on very specific samples, such as Marcus and Beck's (2011), who investigated a sample of faculty teaching English and Speech. In this case, they found a much clearer understanding of students’ plagiarism, although they reported that this was even better in the case of full time professors when compared with part timers.

Given this variety in the conceptualisation of plagiarism, some authors have opted to try to obtain clarity by trying to get lecturers to differentiate between plagiarism and other forms of student textual misconduct. For example, through a scenario-based questionnaire, Barrett and Cox (2005) explored the differences in perceptions between plagiarism and collusion. In this way, they could observe that professors see collusion as an issue primarily connected with shared work, but consider plagiarism to be an individual offence.

In order to overcome this disparity in the conceptual definition of plagiarism, we attempted to find the common specific actions that are considered plagiarism, that is, we enquired about what practices are considered plagiarism. The principal and most uncontested form of plagiarism according to professors is copying verbatim and “cutting-and-pasting” from electronic sources (Beute et al., 2008). To this core form of plagiarism, many authors add paraphrasing incorrectly without the necessary citations (Flint et al., 2006), paraphrasing with an excessive retention of the original, omitting parts of the bibliography and failing to credit graphic sources (Beute et al., 2008). But even with a loosely general agreement that these are forms of plagiarism, Robinson-Zañartu et al. (2005) did not find 100 % acknowledgement, but rates ranging from 89 to 94 %, that is, even if small, there is still a number of professors that would not identify these clear-cut scenarios as plagiarism. In the same vein, Roig (2010) identified great differences in what constituted an acceptable paraphrasing practice. Moreover, beyond these common forms of plagiarism, there are many practices that professors do not agree on whether to consider as plagiarism, such as recycling one’s work (Bennett et al., 2011),

Finally, to make matters even more complex, there are three aspects that add to the variety of conceptions of plagiarism:

  • First, the possible misalignment in conceiving plagiarism between faculty and university official policies, as identified by Flint et al. (2006).
  • Second, the different cultural interpretations of plagiarism. Traditionally, oriental cultures have been seen as more tolerant towards plagiarism, but a recent study in China (Hu & Sun, 2016) showed that professors are well able to understand when a text is plagiarized and when is correctly paraphrased. We are then faced by a changing reality not only in terms of geographical but also chronological context.
  • Third, the matter of intentionality. Indeed, Sutherland-Smith's (2005) study concluded that, for many professors, in order to incur in plagiarism, the student would have to copy deliberately or deceptively, adding that the lack of intentionality and the poor referencing skills would not imply the existence of plagiarism. Data collected by Beute et al. (2008) shows that 70 % of the professors they surveyed believed that students plagiarize in a calculated and intentional manner, whereas 23 % considered that students do not understand what plagiarizing means. This begs the question whether intentionality should even be a consideration at all in the conceptualisation of plagiarism, as this would open the door to similar actions having different outcomes. Moreover, the challenge of determining such intentionality would complicate its management even further.

Thus, we are still a long way from converging to a universal agreement on the concept and types of actions that constitute plagiarism.


3.2 Perceptions about the prevalence and severity of plagiarism

Although many studies consider that professors view plagiarism is a serious issue (de Jager & Brown, 2010), there may not even be total consensus on this perception everywhere. For example, in a study by Ford and Hughes (2012) in a School of Dentistry, most professors believed that plagiarism was not a major issue. These differences in perception have important practical effects. Indeed, understanding and measuring the prevalence (how often it occurs) and severity (how grave it is) of plagiarism is significant because, as Roig (2010) and Robinson-Zañartu et al. (2005) point out, the existence of different levels of seriousness of plagiarism can lead to different actions in order to deal with it.

Regarding its prevalence, since plagiarism is a forbidden practice, it is by nature difficult to measure. To date, the literature has not found an easy solution to this problem, and thus most studies only take into account “detected plagiarism”. For example, Pickard (2007) using mixed methodology, determined that 72 % of lecturers studied had encountered several cases of student plagiarism.

Regarding its severity, some studies have compared different forms of plagiarism. For example, Bennett et al. (2011) observed that professors considered recycling less grave than copy-paste actions, while Marcus and Beck (2011) calculated that 72 % of professors felt that plagiarism was less serious than copying or stealing final exams and Yazici et al.'s (2011) professors regarded working with others in an individual project and presenting as one’s own the work done by another person, the most severe cases of breach of academic ethics. Finally, the matter of severity is one related to the attitude of each individual lecturer. In this sense, Pincus and Schmelkin (2003) were able to classify two types of faculty, one group who perceive plagiarism as a serious misconduct, and another one with a more ambiguous attitude towards it. Moreover, they could not find a relationship between these two groups and demographic or academic characteristics of the professors studied (full versus part-time, gender, rank, tenure status, etc.). This difference of lecturers’ attitudes towards plagiarism materialises in important irregularities in the corresponding actions taken by each type of professor, thus hindering the consistent implementation of university policies.


3.3 Perceptions about the causes of plagiarism

Linked to the perception of professors about what constitutes plagiarism is their consideration of why students have incurred in such a prohibited practice. The study of the perceived causes of plagiarism is important because it will also impact on the actions taken by professors when detecting it.

The most common explanation cited by professors when explaining why students plagiarise is a lack of preparation in terms of academic literacy in general (de Jager & Brown, 2010; Yazici et al., 2011, etc.) and a lack of understanding how to cite in particular, rending many incidents of plagiarism purely accidental (Bruton and Childers, 2016). Furthermore other authors consider plagiarism is due to the importance students attach to the outcomes rather than the process of learning (Gourlay & Deane, 2016). However, other lecturers consider that there is no room for excuses in university education and attribute plagiarism to a problem of academic dishonesty (de Jager & Brown, 2010). Other reasons attributed to students incurring in plagiarism are fear of failure and the need to achieve a high degree (Yazici et al., 2011), laziness, or making excuses from having too many extra-curricular activities and part-time jobs (Kwong et al., 2010).


3.4 Relationship between perceptions of plagiarism and actions taken by professors

Marcus and Beck (2011) maintain that the disagreement among professors about what constitutes plagiarism has a profound effect on how they deal with it. The literature is plagued with examples of lecturers deciding to deal with plagiarism themselves, without taking into account university-wide procedures (Barrett and Cox, 2005), nor reporting it to university authorities (Kwong et al., 2010) nor consulting with other members of staff. This is particularly the case when professors perceive that policies and procedures are not sufficiently sensitive to individual interpretations (de Jager & Brown, 2010).

Beyond matters of perception, a widespread view of professors is the consideration that verifying plagiarism and presenting evidence of its existence to the committee or corresponding authority may require excessive time (Sutherland-Smith, 2005), and as a consequence, in cases of “minor” acts of plagiarism, they may decide that it is not worth wasting their time in pursuing a plagiarism case. Moreover, the pressure to comply with deadlines and work overload in general even prevent them from investigating and confirming potential cases of plagiarism (Bermingham et al., 2010).

Within this practice of dealing with plagiarism cases themselves, professors seem to find the possibility of fitting the action taken with the type and degree of severity of plagiarism (see section 3.2 above) rather than adhering to one-fits-all general rule. In this line, when providing professors with a scenario where small amounts of other people’s work had been copied, Robinson-Zañartu et al. (2005) observed that the tendency of lecturers was to recommend the student to simply repeat the specific piece of work. Furthermore, Bruton and Childers (2016) detected that some lecturers did not penalise plagiarism when they considered it unintentional (see section 3.1 above) and decided to penalise only clear cases of verbatim copying.

Returning to the question of perception, Hard et al. (2006) found that, when professors believe that plagiarism is a frequent problem, they are more prone to take preventive actions and be more vigilant of suspected misconducts. On the contrary, professors who underestimate the frequency of misconduct were less likely to take actions to confirm and pursue students' misconduct. But the lack of prevention efforts may result in increased rates of students’ misconduct. In this sense, Hudd et al. (2009) observed that part-time faculty were more confident in the system, considering plagiarism is not a recurrent problem and thus tend to be less vigilant and minimise their sanctions. On the contrary full-time professors were more likely to consider cheating a problem on campus and were more prone to punish students.

Borg (2009) and Hudd et al., (2009) coincide in reflecting that this variety of actions according as a function of the perception of the lecturer about what plagiarism is and is not, about the degree of severity, the difficulty in pursuing action, and the very variance between different lecturers, cause great confusion among students, who cannot understand where the limits of integrity violations stand. Furthermore, such inconsistencies brought about by the self-management of plagiarism may materialise in unfair situations for students (Flint et al., 2006).


4 Conclusions

Our revision of faculty’s perception of student’s plagiarism has clearly indicated that professors, as a group, possess a wide variety of conceptions and beliefs about this academic problem of varying level. An additional factor that influences their understanding of plagiarism is the sometimes lack of clear polices within universities.

Because we are still far from converging to a universal agreement on the concept and types of actions that constitute plagiarism, future studies should clearly delimitate what they mean by plagiarism, and universities, as well as entire national and international university systems should strive to agree on a common frame of reference. We urge researchers of this topic to develop such homogeneous concept and detail the specific forms of plagiarism. To date, such efforts have taken the direction of finding agreement on a simple definition (for example, the well-know “any form of taking credit for someone else’s work”), but we believe the time is ripe for generating a more complex and nuanced conceptualisation of plagiarism.

As shown in this review, different perceptions and attitudes towards plagiarism lead to different and inconsistent implementation of the corresponding punishments. This can discredit the authority of those who do decide to fully implement procedures as well as university’s policies. Therefore, future research should also study the causes that model such attitudes, as well as the connection between attitudes and actions undertaken, and how to develop means of implementing consistent responses (e.g. efficient communication of policies) regardless of professors’ attitudes. Furthermore, culture can affect the nature of educational system, the understanding of rules on plagiarism, and ultimately the incidence of this problem and the most effective strategies to deal with it. The variation in the way professors understand and deal with this issue should thus merit further research. As seen in the characterization of papers included in this review, only a very small number of papers to date are from non-English speaking countries. Thus, future research should reflect a wider geographic and cultural scope, examining whether the cultural context influences the way plagiarism is perceived and dealt with.

While such research continues to develop, some practical recommendations can be drawn from the present state of knowledge, as explained in the following subsection.


4.1 Recommendations

Although this paper deals with professors, Pickard (2007) recommends that an engagement among all parties involved in the topic of plagiarism needs to occur in order to deal with this problem. In this sense, a key stakeholder, and the one who needs to initiate and lead this process is the university institution itself, who needs to clarify what plagiarism means in their establishments, what forms it may take and to define the consequences of each form of plagiarism. In this effort, universities must make it explicit whether intentionality needs to come into account in the implementation of consequences. We would suggest that, if the policies are clear and clearly communicated, intentionality should not be considered in this matter, as it could bring about a dangerous lack of implementation consistency and of clarity of what is acceptable and not acceptable (Pincus and Schmelkin, 2003). Instead, we do recommend that policies include a gradation of the severity of plagiarism and a corresponding distinction to be made with regards to the consequences of each degree of severity. We believe that this would encourage professors to consistently engage in pursuing less severe cases of plagiarism, thus contributing to the establishment of a culture of academic integrity.

A clear recommendation is the need to emphasise the communication and education guided to (all types of) professors and students alike about what it really means to plagiarise. Such a measure would allow students to know when a certain conduct is punishable, preventing them from engaging in it, while professors would have clear guidelines regarding how to identify plagiarism and how to proceed when detecting it. In this sense, Ford and Hughes (2012) highlighted that efforts in enhancing the quality of plagiarism education may ensue better results than focusing all investments on detection software. With Hard et al. (2006), we agree that, on the topic of plagiarism, prevention may be the best cure.



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Hu, G.; Sun, X. (2016). «Chinese University EFL teachers' knowledge of and stance on Plagiarism / Conocimientos y actitudes ante el plagio del profesorado de lengua inglesa en universidades chinas». Comunicar, vol. 24, no. 48, p. 29-37. <>

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Annex 1

Table 1: Characteristics of the papers reviewed


Sample Size
Main conclusion
Arce Espinoza, L., & Monge Nájera, J.
Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education
Costa Rica
Plagiarism can be prevented throughout workload defined by teacher teams, reduction of rote learning, different assignment and accompanying students along the whole process of producing the written work.
Barrett, R., & Cox, A. L.
Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education
Plagiarism is well understood as unacceptable and collusion as much more acceptable however a problem felt by professors is that the penalty can have widely different consequences depending on the piece of work that has been plagiarized.
Bennett, K. K., Behrendt, L. S., & Boothby, J. L.
Teaching of Psychology
Professors agreed in the definitions of plagiarism however they should discuss among themselves, and clarify to students, the appropriateness of recycling one’s work.
Bermingham, V., Watson, S., & Jones, M.
Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education
48+22 interview
Lack of consistency as to what constitutes a major or a minor offence imply diversity of action taken.
Beute, N., Van Aswegen, E. S., & Winberg, C.
IEEE Transactions on Education
South Africa
Since plagiarism can be considered as an educational, cultural issue or even the result of dishonesty and academic misconduct it need to be addressed differently by institutions.
Borg, E.
Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education
Different interpretation among lecturers of inappropriate or transgressive intertextuality according to the expectations and practices of the discipline.
Bruton, S., & Childers, D.
Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education
Different way to understand and handle plagiarism and diverse attitudes towards Turnitin. The majority penalize only what they considered to be intentional plagiarism. This is at odd to the way they present the concept of plagiarism in their classrooms.
de Jager, K., & Brown, C.
Studies in Higher Education
South Africa
Professors seem reluctant to use and apply official university policies if they are considered to be unrealistic.
Flint, A., Clegg, S., & Macdonald, R.
Journal of further and higher education
Different perceptions of plagiarism related to student activities that constitute plagiarism and the way in which plagiarism is perceived to be related to cheating. Those differences of plagiarism, and a mismatch between staff and student understandings is highlighted as an area for further consideration.
Ford, P. J., & Hughes, C.
European Journal of Dental Education
Professors agreed that the guideline offered in order to deal with plagiarism are inadequate and ask for more attention about them together with the incorporation of software into courses, as well as responsive action.
Gourlay, L., & Deane, J.
Innovations in Education and Teaching International
Different way to understand academic writing, the ‘literacies’ perspective shown by support staff leads to a more distributed view of responsibility for plagiarism prevention. Whereas, a ‘study skills’ paradigm as shown by lecturers’ views writing development as extracurricular and remedial.
Hard, S. F., Conway, J. M., & Moran, A. C.
The Journal of Higher Education
Faculty consider misconduct less common, and students overestimated the frequency of peers' misconduct. One way to increase the number of professors working against misconduct is to make them more aware of the scope of misconduct making sure to forward them the information concerning the frequency of student academic.
Hu, G., & Sun, X.
Professors’ knowledge and attitudes toward plagiarism is different according to the teaching experience and this have an influence on their students’ perceptions of plagiarism and provide insights into how institutions of higher education are handling the problem.
Hudd, S. S. et al.
The Journal of Higher Education
Differences in the way to manage and consider plagiarism between part time who are less severe and full-time professors. Part-time faculty are more likely to play an effective role in helping to foster a climate of integrity on cam pus if they feel engaged and attached to the institution.
Kwong, T., Ng, H.-M., Mark, K.-P., & Wong, E.
Campus-Wide Information Systems
113 + 3 interview
Different perception between faculty members and students of plagiarism, collusion and their seriousness. Students misconduct is due to academic work, pressure for grades, and teachers' unclear instructions of academic integrity. Faculty members almost never report students’ misconduct to the university and typically manage it by themselves.
Marcus, S., & Beck, S.
Community & Junior College Libraries
No clear understanding of the institutional definition of plagiarism or academic integrity and improper application of College's guidelines. There is a need to develop a way to properly use and apply the Academic Integrity Policy in the institution.
Pickard, J.
Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education
Lack of understanding of plagiarism among students and professors and a wide range of values and attitudes about the issue. It also appeared that the provision of student support and the application of sanctions were inconsistent.
Pincus, H. S., & Schmelkin, L.P.
The Journal of Higher Education
Despite the general agreement on what are perceived to be less serious offenses, some behaviors that are not c that serious by students are considered very serious by professors. Thus, inconsistent definition lead to inconsistent application of penalties.
Robinson-Zañartu, C., Peña, E. D., Cook-Morales, V., Peña, A. M., Afshani, R., & Nguyen, L.
School Psychology Quarterly
Faculty members agreed about the severity of plagiarism however there is among them disagreement about the action and sanctions especially due to the different degree of gravity. This indicate the need to find consistent guidelines that recognize consequences that are appropriate to the degree of gravity of the infraction.
Roig, M.
Ethics & Behaviour
Differences in how paraphrasing and plagiarism are defined even within the same discipline which need to be taken into consideration by the administrators in the university.
Sutherland-Smith, W.
Journal of English for Academic Purposes
11+10 interviews
Different perspectives of plagiarism can lead to differences in the implementation of university plagiarism policy. Collaborative, cross-disciplinary re-thinking of plagiarism is needed to reach workable solutions.
Yazici, A., Yazici, S., & Erdem, M. S.
Educational Studies
Slight differences between professors and students on the perception and attitude of cheating and its reasons. The prevalence of teaching and assessment types used in student grading is correlated with perceptions of out-of-class cheating, but not with out-of-class cheating behaviours. Students with less experience in out-of-class assessment display a less ethical attitude toward out-of-class cheating.


Recommended citation

Gottardello, Debora; Pàmies, Maria del Mar; Valverde Aparicio, Mireia (2017). "Professors' perceptions of university students' plagiarism : A literature review". BiD: textos universitaris de biblioteconomia i documentació, núm. 39 (desembre) . <>. [Consulta: 16-01-2018].