Of late I have seen a spurt of cases regarding self-plagiarism. The normal cases of plagiarism tend to focus around, copying of material, bad referencing or colluding, rarely do you see a case of self –plagiarism and the reason being Universities do not tend to throw the book at such cases. Self-plagiarism is not what most students think about when the issue of plagiarism arises. My experience has taught me that some students do not even understand what it is, or know that it exists.

My most recent case was referred to a formal hearing before the Senate Committee. The Investigating Officer’s investigation involved only looking at some Turnitin reports…that was the extent of the investigation.

We filed very detailed and thorough submissions ahead of the Hearing to be put before the Panel and although usually plagiarism is plagiarism regardless of intentions, on the day of the Senate Committee Hearing the Panel advised us that there was no case to answer. Client to return to resubmit with no cap. End of matter.

Obviously an excellent result for our client, but also an interesting lesson for the University too – in such matters a full investigation needs to be undertaken, an analysis of some Turnitin Reports is not enough. Only after a full and thorough investigation is undertaken can appropriate referrals be made to the Disciplinary Panels. Turnitin is no longer the start and end of an investigation.

The lesson for us? Plagiarism is not always plagiarism if you articulate your position well.   

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