Why do Students Plagiarise?

Why do Students Plagiarise?

Number three in the “Plagiarism” series. Here we will look at the reasons students give for plagiarising, and their justification of these actions.

All of this information is sourced directly from the Open UP Study Skills Book entitled “The Complete Guide to Referencing and Avoiding Plagiarism”, and I am simply adapting this information to produce this series of blog posts. Information on Bangor University’s Code of Practice on Plagiarism, Unfair Practice Procedure and full references can be found at the end of this post.

What are the reasons for plagiarising work? Surely many (hopefully all) students are conscious of plagiarism and aware of the associated consequences should they cheat. Dordoy (2002) found the reasons students gave for their own plagiarism were most commonly related to grades, poor time management and ease of opportunity:

  • 59% of survey students said they plagiarised work to get a better grade
  • 54% stated it was due to laziness or poor time management
  • 40% found that the internet gave them ease of access to material
  • 29% said plagiarism was accidental as they did not understand the rules
  • 29% also said that plagiarism ‘happens unconsciously’

This survey also found that 16% of students surveyed admitted they plagiarised their work because they did not think they would be caught. Due to the large amount of marking and heavy workloads of lecturers, and the vast amount of information available online, many thought they could simply “get away with it”. Dordoy also found students who gained a sense of superiority by cheating on work and not being caught, and they attributed this as a retaliation to unengaging and uninterested lecturers.

Dennis (2005) surveyed a group of 80 students and asked them why others may cheat. He received a similar range of responses. The responses are as follows, with the most frequently cited at the top:

  1. They started too late and ran out of time
  2. They simply could not do the coursework otherwise
  3. They did not think it was wrong
  4. They have to succeed – they got higher marks this way
  5. They did not need to learn that material – just pass the module
  6. They could not keep up with the work
  7. They wanted to see if they could get away with it
  8. They felt the tutor did not care, so why should they
  9. They thought paraphrasing would be disrespectful

Essentially plagiarism has become easier and more tempting than ever before, particularly with the accessibility of the internet. Students are under a lot more pressure as grades become more important for graduate schemes and work opportunities and huge amounts of money are invested into university education. Students are also under pressure to write within strict word limits, and may be penalised if they are unable to do so.

As can be seen, there are a large number of different reasons given when students are asked why they, or their peers, might plagiarise work. Although their intentions may be different, more often than not the university’s plagiarism policy is not, and students will be punished regardless of whether or not their actions were accidental. It is important to educate students about plagiarism and the correct way to reference material, so they are able to consciously distinguish plagiarism in their work. If students are fully aware of the act of plagiarism and the associated consequences, yet still purposely choose to plagiarise material in their work – then this is a different issue altogether.


Neville, C. (2010). The Complete Guide to Referencing and Avoiding Plagiarism. Second Edition. Berkshire, England: Open University Press.

Dennis, L.A. (2005). Student attitudes to plagiarism and collusion within computer science. University of Nottingham. Available at: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/archive/00000319/. [Accessed 15 Mar. 2006].

Dordoy, A. (2002). Cheating and plagiarism: staff and student perceptions at Northumbria. Working Paper presented Northumbrian Conference: ‘Educating for the Future’, Newcastle 22 Oct. 2003.

Bangor University Code of Practice on Plagiarism can be accessed here: http://www.bangor.ac.uk/regulations/BUCode13-v201101b.pdf.

Bangor University, Code of Practice on Plagiarism, Code 13, 2011 Version 01, Latest version 2011, Effective 01/02/11.

Bangor University Unfair Practice Procedure can be accessed here: http://www.bangor.ac.uk/regulations/BUProc05-v201502.pdf.

Bangor University, Unfair Practice Procedure, Procedure 05, 2015 Version 02, Latest version 2015, Effective 01/03/2015. Applies to all students.


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