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Centre for Augmentative & Alternative Communication

Plagiarism Policy Document

Time and again students have been found to commit PLAGIARISM. This document serves as information on what constitutes plagiarism, why it is considered a grave offence, and what the possible consequences could be if a student is found guilty of plagiarism.

The word ‘plagiarism’ comes from a Latin word meaning ‘to kidnap’, and refers to ‘kidnapping’ someone else’s work or idea. In the context of the University, plagiarism constitutes the following:

  • handing in an assignment that was written (even in part) by someone other than yourself, or copied from someone else’s assignment
  • copying from another student during an exam or test
  • copying parts of an article/text book (whether in your own words or not) without proper acknowledgement of the source

It is especially this last issue that is a reoccurring concern. We understand that in some cultures, quoting what someone else said without acknowledging the original source is not a problem. However, in terms of international copyright law it constitutes a criminal offence, and is equal to stealing – as the person who does this is regarded as stealing another’s ideas and pretending they are his/her own.

What can happen if a student is found guilty of plagiarism?

If it is a first-time transgression in an assignment, the matter is usually resolved between the lecturer and the student, but will definitely result in a reduced mark in the assignment, as well as an indication on the student’s departmental record. If the student denies the transgression, or commits plagiarism again, the matter is taken up with the Faculty disciplinary committee. Based on the Registrar’s decision, this may lead to a disciplinary hearing on charge of misconduct. The student has to appear at the hearing. Depending on the findings of the hearing, disciplinary action might be taken against the student. In the worst case, the student may be suspended from all further studies at the University, and in extreme cases from all South African universities

So, what should students do in an assignment to avoid this?

Firstly, it is always best for the student to write in his/her own words. Very rarely will he/she receive marks for quoting directly from the textbook – it does not really show the lecturer that the student has understood the issues at hand.

Even when the student answers in his/her own words, but the ideas mentioned come from a prescribed reading, the student needs to reference that reading, by giving the surname(s) of the author(s), as well as the publication date. For example:

Children with severe disabilities often struggle to become literate (Pierce & McWilliam, 1993).

If the student feels he/she really needs to quote (copy directly) from a prescribed text, because there is no other way to say something, the quoted part needs to be put in inverted commas, and the surname(s) of the author(s), date of publication and page number from where the piece was copied needs to be given. For example:

Pierce and Mc William (1993) point out the difference between print an graphic symbol systems. They specifically state that “…there is a critical difference between English print and any current GRS used for augmentative communication” (Pierce & McWilliam, 1993, p. 221).

However, students need to be aware that direct quotes should be used very sparingly and students will rarely receive marks for such quotes.

At the end of an assignment the student is expected to give the full reference list of all the prescribed work referenced in the body of his/her assignment.

In an exam, students are not expected to provide references, seeing that they do not have access to reading work. However, in assignments, students most definitely need to provide references.

Please contact us if you need further information regarding plagiarism.