It seems that at least once a week I have to confront and turn in at least one online student for committing plagiarism. A recent survey has found that college plagiarism might be at an all time high due to the digital revolution:  A 55% increase over the past 10 years in plagiarism has been reported by college presidents.

With online plagiarism, we must ask the following questions. What are the different types of plagiarism? How can you avoid them? How do online faculty catch plagiarism? And what happens when you are caught plagiarizing?


Types of Plagiarism:

  1. Intentional vs. Non-Intentional Plagiarism– Intentional plagiarism is when a student intentionally plagiarizes by turning in a research paper or assignment that is clearly not their own. Non-Intentional plagiarism is where an online student forgets or does not know how to correctly cite and or paraphrase correctly using APA Format.
  2. Self-Plagiarism– This is where a student uses a previous paper or assignment they used in a previous class for their current class. Many students don’t realize that this is a form of plagiarism. This is also referred to as double counting or dipping.
  3. Purchasing Papers Online– There are many Web sites out there that allow you to purchase research papers and assignments. This is the worst form of plagiarism and the easiest caught.
  4. Writing Services-  There are some online services that will write your research papers and assignments for you for a fee. You might get away with this form of plagiarizing, but you are only fooling yourself out of a good education and this will only come back to haunt you in the future. See the last paragraph of this blog post about how online faculty may still be able to catch this form of plagiarism.
  5. Copying Sections– This is where online students will copy large parts of information from another source without properly citing or paraphrasing it using APA Format. This is sometimes done intentionally and non-intentionally. Online faculty have various ways they can cipher between the two.
  6. Copying From Other Students- This is where students will copy other students discussion posts and present them as their own. This is probably one of the least smart things to do in an online course as each post is time stamped and online faculty can easily see who actually posted the original first and who copies/plagiarized it. My thoughts are often that if a student is dumb enough to plagiarize, they are dumb enough to get caught.


How to Avoid Plagiarism:

As an online student, you can obviously avoid any forms of plagiarizes by not participating in any of these actions listed above. Also, learning APA Format is critical to your success as an online student. In confronting students who I have caught plagiarizing, I have asked them why they plagiarized. Most have said that they did not have enough time to complete the assignment. I find that procrastination often tempts students to plagiarism. So simply said, don’t procrastinate! Owen (2007) suggested the different reasons why students plagiarize. Please view the image below that displays this.


A few students claim that they don’t understand APA Format. Here is a great Web site from Purdue University that helps online students with APA Format and Style to prevent any plagiarism: Here is a great APA Format Tutorial:


How Faculty Catch Plagiarism:

Many students think that they will never be caught plagiarizing, but they are wrong most of the time. You may ask how online faculty can catch online students plagiarizing? It is easy, applications like allow faculty to turn in all student papers and assignments to check for any plagiarism. Students can use this application as well to help check their own assignments for any APA Formatting mistakes that might lead to any accusations of plagiarism.

Also, most online faculty are very good at noticing when an individual students writing style changes suddenly. For example, comparing discussion board posts and responses to research papers and other assignments. It is very hard to be consistent when you plagiarize!


What Happens When You get Caught Plagiarizing?

And finally, depending on the specific individual online institutional policies and procedures, once you are caught plagiarizing most faculty will refer you to academic affairs. Some online institutions have zero tolerance policies on plagiarism. But, most will give you a written academic warning, place you on academic probation, and often require you to take online plagiarism prevention workshops/classes/seminars. If plagiarism happens again then you are often dismissed.