Why do students plagiarise?

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In this instance, no distinction has been made between the plagiarism of external sources and plagiarism of their peers work (often referred to as collusion). The following are ten examples of reasons why students might plagiarise.

Bad time management skills
Having left it to the last minute to complete an assignment they panic and try to find the quickest solution. External pressures affecting much more of the student population, such as the need to work or care for children, may make the situation worse.

Unable to cope with the workload
This is similar to bad time management, but this problem lies with the students timetable and assignments from multiple modules clashing.

The tutor doesn't care, why should I?
If the student senses that the academic is not interested in the subject or the student's learning then the student is less inclined to care. This apathy by the lecturer can be shown in a multitude of ways such as showing no enthusiasm for the subject, providing handouts that have obviously been used for years or assignments that seem dated.

External pressure to succeed
In the US, statistics have shown that one of the main reasons people resort to plagiarism is the need to keep up a grade average. Although this does not appear to be an issue in the UK, there may be external pressures such as parental and cultural expectations that make students feel they have to plagiarise to achieve.

Lack of understanding
The most common cause of minor plagiarism is a lack of understanding of how to cite material from other sources.

I can't do this!
If a student is faced with an assignment they feel is completely beyond their ability they may feel they have no option but to copy the answers. However, this may have more to do with a lack of clarity in the assignment specifications than a student's ability. This problem is often linked to bad management skills: it is human nature to leave until last the things we either consider hard or unpleasant.

I want to see if I can get away with it
If they are trying to test the institution and/or academic, it is likely that, whatever prevention methods are put into place, this small proportion of students will always attempt to plagiarise. In fact there is an agreement that the more visible prevention methods are the more challenging for students.

However, particular problems arise if the institutional policy encourages students to plagiarise merely to see if they can get away with it. If a student has left an assignment until the last minute, knowing that the penalty for plagiarism will simply be to resubmit the work, they are in a win-win situation. Either they won't get caught or they will effectively be given an extension.

I don't need to learn this, I only need to pass it
If a student is not motivated to take part in the educational process or does not appreciate that they need to acquire the knowledge to continue their education, they may be inclined to take the quickest route to success.

But you said work together!
Most people in the project identified collusion as far bigger problem than plagiarism from printed material or the web. As noted in the introduction to this section, no distinction has been made between the plagiarism of external sources and plagiarism of peers' work. In this instance the term collusion has been used to describe a situation when students have been asked to work together on an assignment and have presented the same text. Obviously in some cases the assignment specification allowed for this; if not the work will be regarded as plagiarism. It is important that the specification makes clear what is expected so students are aware if individual or joint assignments are required

But that would insult the experts in the field
Finally, there is the issue of cultural differences in learning and presentation styles. In some countries it is customary to include material from experts in the field without citation. Although all students must work under their institution's regulations it is worth taking this into account when training students in study skills.