Half of UK university students are losing marks for not referencing correctly, survey finds

Findings come months after The Times exposes 'plagiarism epidemic' among Britain's institutions

Aftab Ali
Student Editor
Thursday 14 April 2016 09:35
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Half of the nation’s university students are losing marks for not referencing their work correctly, according to a new survey into attitudes towards plagiarism.

Citation tool RefME - which polled just under 2,900 of the country’s students - said referencing is “a fundamental exercise” in academia which has “a great impact” on success at university.

The management tool’s comments have come as it was also revealed that almost 80 per cent are worried about referencing correctly, while a majority of 71 per cent expressed concern about facing disciplinary actions for plagiarism.

RefMe said: “This widespread concern over facing disciplinary actions can be easily avoided by simply learning to reference correctly and accurately.”

Almost half of respondents blamed a lack of information on referencing while studying for their concerns, as other key findings revealed how, despite 90 per cent being able to identify that paying for a ‘ghostwriter’ to complete their work for them constitutes academic misconduct, more than 20 per cent were unable to identify this as plagiarism.

The findings have come just months after an investigation by The Times newspaper revealed there to be a “plagiarism epidemic” among Britain’s universities with almost 50,000 students being caught cheating in the last three years.

From the 129 universities which featured in the investigation, the University of Kent came out on top with the highest number of academic misconduct cases - with 1,947 - followed by the University of Westminster (1,933), and the University of East London (1,828).

Sheffield Hallam (1,740) and Oxford Brookes (1,711) went on to complete the top five universities which caught the highest number of cheats, according to data obtained via a Freedom of Information request.

A spokesperson for Kent told the Independent the institution would “not tolerate academic misconduct,” and added: “We take appropriate action against those who we find to be cheating, and continued infringement will result in expulsion from the university.”

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However, RefME said that, although its study unearthed some “concerning” statistics around plagiarism in academia, students are increasingly using tools to help them out; almost half of respondents said they use a referencing tool, and 44 per cent reported using plagiarism tools prior to submitting.

Tom Hatton, CEO and founder of RefME, described how, as a university student, he, too, lost marks for “citing incorrectly,” adding that he was “fearful” of citing sources he was unable to format correctly.

He said: “Based on these findings, it’s a real problem that tools like RefME are trying to solve. We want students to do better research by knowing that they can use such tools to help them along their research journey.

“The hope is that we can look back at these numbers in a couple of years and see evidence that the sentiment towards plagiarism has changed.”

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