Of the three options on the table, the best punishment for a plagiarizing student would be to fail the student the assignment. Whereas there are those that might say this is not harsh enough, there a number of reasons why it strikes the needed compromise between the students need to learn and the need by the instructor to make the best out of him or her. Plagiarism has gone high tech and with the mass of information available at the click of a mouse, it is becoming increasingly hard for the students to avoid it.
A basic definition of plagiarism is the use of other people’s ideas and thoughts, representing them as your own and failing to acknowledge the source. This is a broad based definition of a practice that has become very common amongst students. It is a form of cheating and should be penalized. A student who has plagiarized cannot expect to get away with it. Whereas there are extreme measures that are more punitive than corrective, the least of all, the teacher should ensure that the student does not pass in the plagiarized paper.
This is an enough penalty as it ensures that the student goes back to the drawing board and most probably is given a chance to redo the paper. This is in the clear understanding that education is a learning process and what better way to do this than to compel the student to redo the paper under close supervision? By failing the student the assignment, the instructor strikes a balance between firmness, leniency and the need to impart knowledge. This is in the understanding students plagiarize for a number of reasons.
They might plagiarize when the topic is too hard for them, when the deadline for submission is tight and there is no ample time for appropriate research, referencing and citations. They might plagiarize when they are not familiar with the proper citation and referencing techniques. Failing such students the plagiarized assignment will go along way in informing them of the seriousness of the practice as well as give them an opportunity to correct their mistakes.
Failing the student the whole course or expelling the student from the university is an extreme measure which though may provide a good lesson to the rest of the students, will put the plagiarizing students life into jeopardy. It is important to note that the essence is to correct a student and not to punish. This is in the understanding that plagiarism is not only as a result of students own doing but is a reflection of a systemic failure.
There is unanimity amongst scholars that not enough has been done to inform students on plagiarism or come up with fool proof ways to avoid it. Lathrop and Foss (10) notes that: We will never solve the cheating problem until those who have the opportunity to instill values and shape attitudes of young people engage in thoughtful, systemic and comprehensive efforts to promote integrity and prevent cheating.
This is an indicator that to curb plagiarism requires a multifaceted approach that involves overhauling the students’ attitude towards exams. This cannot be achieved by expelling students but rather should be through counseling and provision of specialized attention to students that have such weaknesses. A plagiarizing student should be reprimanded and the best way to do this would be to fail him or her assignment and then counseling and providing assistance to ensure that such a mistake does not recur.