Plagiarism and International Students

The fourth installment of the “Plagiarism” series. This section aims to look at the issues facing international students regarding plagiarism, and how different cultural and social views can play a role.

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.

The interpretation of the term plagiarism varies depending on the marker, the institution and even the country. For students who are familiar with one academic system, studying abroad at a new institute can cause problems. Although plagiarism is unacceptable in the UK and will incur major consequences, there may be some parts of the world where plagiarism is condoned, or is less strictly regimented.

It can often be difficult for students to follow a new referencing system or plagiarism protocol if they have not been previously taught about it. Lake (2004) found in a study of Chinese students, more than 50% had no previous experience of referencing within academic writing. He found that only 1/3rd of these students had some experience of referencing, and that was only in their own language. This shows that simply expecting international students to be able to reference at university may not be appropriate, and further teaching or demonstration may be necessary.

In Vietnam, copying work is not acceptable. However, providing a full bibliography at the end of the writing and including individual author citations within the text is not common. This could cause confusion for students who are then expected to comply with the standards of the institute at which they are studying. It is also common not to cite lecture notes or information provided by a lecturer, something which may result in penalisation in the UK (Ha, 2006).

The language barrier may also cause some international students problems regarding plagiarism. Many students may find themselves trying to interpret or even paraphrase something that they only half-understand, so jargon and academic language which is blatantly different from the rest of their writing is easily spotted. For many international students, English is not their first language, so they may lack confidence in themselves to write academically without extracting information from other sources. In this process, it is very easy to accidentally (or intentionally) leave in sections of work which are not original.

Another common theme relating to the issue of plagiarism with international students, is the high costs of studying at an overseas institution and incredible pressure to succeed. Many students do not wish to face the economic or social shame which may be associated with failure, and feel they are forced to plagiarise to ensure success.


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

Lake, J. (2004). EAP writing: the Chinese challenge; new ideas on plagiarism. Humanising Language Teaching, year 6, issue 1, January. Available at

Ha, P.L. (2006). Plagiarism and overseas students: stereotypes again? ELT Journal. 60(1): 76-78.

Bangor University Code of Practice on Plagiarism can be accessed here:

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:

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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