Problem Statement The aim of the research to be carried out is to establish the impact of plagiarism on Research methodology students

Problem Statement

The aim of the research to be carried out is to establish the impact of plagiarism on Research methodology students. It is clear that plagiarism is a common problem affecting all students (Hosny, 2014). The problem with plagiarism is that it has become increasingly worse due to the use of the internet because of the easy access to vast amounts of information (Maina, 2014). Open and distance learning (ODL) students could possibly be worse affected due to the lack of support, supervision and guidance. ODL students work independently with little support. The aim of this research is to determine the impact of plagiarism on research methodology students from an ODL perspective.

Literature Review


Academic dishonesty at universities is common amongst students of all ages and specialties (Hosny, 2014, p.748). Plagiarism may or may not be intentional, due to student lack of knowledge regarding the relevant standards of quoting (Hosny, 2014, p. 748). Hence why plagiarism may not always considered to be cheating (Hosny, 2014, p.748). Plagiarism has become a problem as there is little to deter academic plagiarisers and hold them accountable for their actions (Lewis B.R, Duchac J.E, Beets S.D, 2011). It would seem that when plagiarism is discovered, the incentives in academe are often seen to discourage the victim from reporting and exposing the plagiarist (Lewis et al., 2011). According to Minaar (2012, p.1) “Dishonesty in high school leads to dishonesty in higher education, and especially, in ODL.” Dishonesty and the issues surrounding it, such as its prevalence, detection and punishment, have become a major point of concern in ODL and higher education” (Minaar, 2012, p.1). “It seems that dishonesty can only be controlled and not stopped entirely” (Minaar, 2012, p1). Dishonesty in higher education and ODL should not be viewed a trivial as it has lasting repercussions for individuals and institutions (Minaar, 2012, p1). I think that plagiarism would especially have an impact on Open Distance Learning since as “students are assumed to be independent and self-motivated in the learning process” (Ogina and Mampane, 2013, p.104).

Definition of Plagiarism

“The verb, ”plagiarize,” can be de?ned as the act of stealing the ideas or words of another and presenting them as one’s own without giving credit to the original source” (Bruce R. Lewis et al., 2011, p490). It has been assumed that students are aware of what plagiarism is as they pass through the various levels of education, especially at tertiary education level, but this assumption is erroneous (Bruce R. Lewis et al., 2011, p. 490).
Various researchers all seem to agree that plagiarism is one of the most popular types of cheating amongst students. Research has been undertaken to ascertain why students commit plagiarism (Bruce R. Lewis et al., 2011, p.492).

Plagiarism is copying information and using it as part of one’s assignment or essay, without acknowledging the source of information (Hosny, 2014, p.750).
According to Hosny (2014) plagiarism can be classified into the following types:
Copying text from another source without surrounding it with quotation marks and without citing the reference. Paraphrasing the words of someone else without citing the source. Incorporating a figure or drawing from another source without acknowledging the source. Using information that is not common knowledge without citing the source.
Using ideas and theories of another person without giving the person credit.

Types of Plagiarism

Plagiarism is the intentional and unintentional use of anothers work or ideas, published or unpublished, without acknowledging the source of the work. (Sentleng and King, 2012) Plagiarism also includes representing someone’s ideas as one’s own, this constitutes misrepresentation and fraud. Plagiarism includes a mixture of legal, intellectual, social, professional, and moral issues as well as matters of reputation, acceptance, shame, economic loss, self-esteem and indignation (Sentleng and King, 2012).

Unintentional plagiarism occurs when students use the words or ideas of others but fail to quote or give credit, usually because they don’t know how (Sentleng and King, 2012).

Intentional plagiarism occurs when a student knows that he or she is passing off someone else’s words or ideas as their own. Purchasing a prewritten paper via the internet is a blatant form of intentional plagiarism. Other examples include fabricating a quotation or a source, copying an essay from the internet, on-line source or electronic databases without quoting or giving credit, and cutting and pasting from more than one source to create a paper without quoting or giving credit (Sentleng and King, 2012).

The internet and social media has provided scholars with a useful ”avenue for the rapid spread and exchange of ideas and information” (Maina A. Maina M. and Jauro, 2014). The ease of access to these millions of resources via the Internet has also resulted to an increase in the rate of plagiarism known as cyber-plagiarism (Maina et al. 2014). A recent survey by turnitin has identified ten different types of plagiarism (Maina et al., 2014). The top three are as follows:

• Cloning – submitting word for word someone elses work as your own
• CTRL-C – a written piece of work copied from another source without alterations
• Find-Replace – changing key words and phrases but retaining the content (Maina et al., 2014)

The above types of plagiarism could possibly apply to ODL students as students are expected to work independently and at their own pace, without any monitoring or supervision. The temptation to take short cuts and save time could lead to this type of plagiarism. This could be further explored by carrying out some research. Ogina and Mampane (2013, p. 105) have stated that different learners have different learnng styles. The learning styles identified by Ogina and Mampane (2013, p. 105) are as follows; “learners who are systematic waders engaged actively and systematically with their study material”. “The speedy-focusing students lack deep understanding”. “The global dippers on the other hand are surface learners who study in a disorganised way”. In my opinion the later two learning styles could contribute to a student who would plagiarise their assignments. It would be interesting to establish how students at UNISA feel about plagiarism and how serious an offence they consider it to be. It would be interesting to determine the demographics of the Unisa students who are most likely to cheat.

Sentleng and King (2012) have decribed the research methodology used to understand the forms and causes of plagiarism. The particpants in the survey included a hundred and thirty nine students from the Faculty of Applied Sciences. These respondents were undergraduate students studying at a higher education institution in South Africa. A hundred and thirty nine questionaires were handed out and one hundred percent of the questionaires were returned. The feedback from the questionaires was loaded into an excel spreadsheet and the results quantified. The results of the survey indicated that nearly half the students indicated that plagiarism was a serious to very serious issue. The remainder of the students did not consider it serious at all. The results of the survey further inicated that 74% of the students used the internet for completion of assigments. This correlates with (Maina, 2014) theory that plagiarism is on the rise due to the use of the internet and the ease with which information can be copied and pasted.
It was further discovered that 30% of the participants admitted to plagiarising because of laziness and bad time management, while 25.9% said it was to achieve better marks.

Reasons students plagiarise

Reasons for plagiarism vary from being lazy, poor time management, pressure from other students, pressure to receive higher grades, gaining easy access to information via the internet, fear of failure and taking risks because they think they will not be caught. (Sentleng and King, 2012)

Reasons for plagiarising unintentionally may include collaborative team work in producing an assignment, misunderstanding of rules and not being aware of what plagiarism entails. (Sentleng and King, 2012)

Various researchers have studied factors that may contribute to the tendency to cheat and plagiarize. These factors can be classified into three categories: Demographic factors, societal factors and technological factors and situational factors. It was found that the use of the internet for assignment completion was found to be positively correlated to plagiarism (Hosny, 2014, p.750). Hosny (2014) also has the viewpoint that the proficiency of the students’ use of the English language has a lot to do with plagiarism. Students who are not English speaking find it difficult to put their thoughts into words. There is thus the tendency to plagiarize by using already well written articles.

Hosny (2014) further states that societal factors for cheating include, high family expectations, importance of grades for future career chances and external work commitments. A number of studies have also investigated the role that age plays in academic misconduct (Kisamore, Stone, Jawahar, 2007, p.383). Kisamore et al., (2007) also suggests that younger students are more likely to engage in misconduct than older students. In contrary to this Sentleng and King (2012) state that most older or mature students have families, children and full-time jobs. As it becomes difficult for these students to juggle parenthood, being a student and working, these students tend to cheat more often than younger ones. There are two opposing views with regards to age and cheating. I think that this is an area that could be researched further. I don’t think that cheating is really dependent on age. I think it boils down to the individual and their personal beliefs whether they are likely to cheat or not. In my opinion I think that poor time management plays a big role in plagiarism. At Unisa especially, you may find that many students are working and studying. This is not an easy task especially for those who have families that they need to look after as well (Sentleng and King, 2012). Students who have less responsibilities may plagiarize because they are trying to keep up with other interests and perhaps their social life. (Sentleng and King, 2012) It can be difficult to find a balance. There are many students who might have received bursaries or have received sponsorship from the companies they work for, the company could also be offering a higher paying job on completion of studies making a student more likely to cheat to achieve these goals. An outcome of a survey done by Sentleng and King (2014) revealed that 38% of students in the sample said they were never taught to reference properly, while 56% said they lost track of were they got the information from. This survey shows that students are lacking in the area of referencing techniques and perhaps more emphasis should be placed on teaching all students an effective technique to reference.

Studies have further shown gender to be related to cheating, plagiarism and similar forms of academic dishonesty such that academic misconduct are higher for males than for females (Kisamore et al. 2007). According to Sentleng and King (2012), it was found that young male business students are more likely to cheat. There seems to be an underlying trend that males are more prone to cheating and plagiarism as proven by the research conducted by Kisamore (2007) and Sentleng and King (2012).

Sentleng and King (2012) have stated that “Plagiarism is more common among students who have a negative attitude to their classes and feel that the subject is unimportant and uninteresting or that tasks are not challenging.” Sentleng and King (2012) also mention that to some students the benefits of plagiarizing are more important than the risks, especially since they know they will not get caught and there is little or no punishment.

Maina et al. (2014) have said that other reasons for plagiarism is poor time management, the scare of failure, focus on achievements and grades, the failure of teachers to investigate students written work for plagiarism and to challenge and punish those guilty. “Poor time management” was also discovered as being a reason for plagiarism in the survey conducted by Sentleng and King (2014)

Researchers have also examined the influence of general ability on the propensity to cheat. Results indicate that students with lower ACT scores, intelligence and grade point averages are more likely to engage in various forms of academic misconduct (Kisamore et al., 2007). The same point was argued by Sentleng and King (2012) that students with lower grades tend to cheat more.

Another reason for plagiarism is that “many students do not possess academic writing skills. Students need to be constantly reminded why referencing is important. Referencing methods, referencing techniques and acknowledging all forms of intellectual material must be taught” (Sentleng and King, 2012). This fact was proven in the survey conducted by Sentleng and King (2012). Bruce et al. (2011) have also pointed out that students lack knowledge of referencing as they have not been taught how to do this in school.

There seems to be agreement between researchers that plagiarism stems from poor time management to complete the work load and assignments. The lack of punishment for plagiarism seems to aggrevate the situation as students do not seem to realise what a serious offence plagiarism is.

Research on dishonesty in ODL has shown the ease with which internet enhances the ability of dishonest students to purchase pre-packaged papers and essays. (Minaar, 2012) A google search for research papers according to Minaar (2012), has yielded 107 000 000 results. The results prove that there is a demand for pre-written research papers by students.

Eradicating plagiarism

Hosny (2014), suggested that to combat plagiarizing from the internet, high-tec defences such as blocking, filtering and rating systems can be used. Using sites like and submitting the results with the assignment may help students revise their work and reduce the incidence of plagiarism. Hosny (2014, p. 751), further said that “‘Teachers can play an important role in fighting academic dishonesty by being alert and detecting and reporting incidents of cheating and plagiarism.”

Sentleng and King (2012) have said:

Academic staff should focus on ways to reduce plagiarism.To raise awareness about plagiarism, the issue must be explained to students. Special attention should be given to why it is unacceptable and how to avoid being accused of plagiarising. Although it is the responsibility of the higher education institution to prevent plagiarism academic staff in cooperation with the library can prevent or minimise plagiarism by designing assignments correctly and adopting teaching methods and instructions.Understanding why students plagiarise can help academic staff consider how to reduce plagiarism in their classrooms.

”Universities should develop strict rules and punishment for plagiarists” according to Maina A, Maina M and Jauro S (2014, p 228). ”


The issue with plagiarism within the context of research students in ODL and their performance is that they do not learn how to research and think critically by plagiarizing someone else’s work. Students should formulate their own ideas and opinions. They should also recognize the importance of crediting the sources of information they are citing. It is imperative in my opinion that research students are able to practice these skills in order to carry out their own research and use this knowledge in the workplace.

”Leaving academic dishonesty unchecked could contribute to the production of unqualified scholars who could contribute to the development of sustained corrupt systems and institutions of very poor repute.” (Maina et al., 2012)

Students who do not abide by the rules of their institution could end up failing a module or being expelled from the institution. This could lead to impaired credentials and could have an impact later when seeking employment.

Further research could be conducted from an ODL perspective of Research Methodology students to determine how many students have plagiarised, the grades they opbtained and how they are eventually coping at their place of emplyment.


Hosny, M., & Fatima, S. (2014). Attitude of students towards cheating and plagiarism: University case study. Journal of Applied Sciences, 14(8), 748–757.

Kisamore, J., Stone, T. H., & Jawahar, I. M. (2007). Academic integrity: The relationship between individual and situational factors on misconduct contemplations. Journal of Business Ethics, 75, 381–394. DOI: 10.1007/s10551-006-9260-9

Lewis, B. R., Duchac, J. E., & Beets, S. D. (2011). An academic publisher’s response to plagiarism. Journal of Business Ethics, 102, 489–506. DOI: 10.1007/s10551-011-0827-8

Maina, A. B., Maina, M. B., & Jauro, S. S. (2014). Plagiarism: A perspective from a case of a Northern Nigerian University. International Journal of Information Research and Review, 1(12), 225 – 230.

Minaar, A. (2012). A framework for controlling dishonesty in open and distance learning (ODL) in higher education. Journal of Teaching and Education, 1(3), 1-13.

Ogina, T.A., Mampane, S.T. (2013). Experiences of tutorial sessions as learning support for distance education students. Progressio, 35(1), 104-118

Sentleng, M. P., & King, L. (2012). Plagiarism among undergraduate students in the Faculty of Applied Science at a South African Higher Education Institution.
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