Tackling Plagiarism in the Level One Biology Class – A Work in Progress

Anne Margaret Tierney, Andrea Brown, Douglas Neil

Abstract


The Level One Biology class at the University of Glasgow is the largest in Western Europe, with typically 650-700 full-time undergraduate students. In 2003/04, 23 cases of plagiarism were detected in the Level One Biology class at the University of Glasgow. Of these cases, the majority (16) cases were “peer copying”; that is, a pair of students, usually lab partners, doing a piece of coursework outside class, did so by using one another’s words. The two pieces of near-identical coursework were then handed in, and the similarities were picked up on marking, either because they were an unusual answer which was wrong, or correct and worded identically. The other cases consisted of a piece of group work that had been taken from the internet and “cut and pasted” into a poster, and one final case of an essay that had been copied from the internet.

In response to these cases, each student was interviewed individually. This proved to be time-consuming and often resulted in an unsatisfactory outcome as it was often impossible to find out who was the culprit. It was decided that the best course of action was to introduce measures that limited the opportunity to plagiarise, and to introduce students to the concept of plagiarism and how to avoid it.

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