Plagiarism and cheating
John Playle, FCCA, FAIA, PGCertEd. Chief Moderator and Academic Conduct Officer of Oxford Brookes University BSc (Hons) Applied Accounting
Accountancy as a profession and ACCA in particular as a global accounting body, are built upon clear principles of honesty, integrity and good ethical behaviour. These principles are enshrined in the assessment process of all ACCA examinations and, of course, in the requirements for the Oxford Brookes degree.
The guidelines and student information on the degree are very clear about cheating and the consequences of so doing. They are also very clear about the necessity of referencing the Research and Analysis Project (RAP) according to Harvard referencing.
fortunately, most students follow the guidelines and principles and produce RAPs that conform but an increasing number do not.
What is plagiarism? In simple terms it is a form of theft. It is the taking of somebody else‟s work and passing it off as your own by not acknowledging the original author. How would you feel if you had painted a beautiful picture or invented an amazing gadget and somebody else said that they had painted or invented it? Often, those accused of plagiarism, deny intent but admit that it may have “occurred by accident” as in the case of well known
American historian Stephen Ambrose (Google him!) but ignorance is never accepted as a legitimate defence.
The simplest way of avoiding plagiarism is to correctly reference your work. Good referencing not only acknowledges your sources of information, ideas and opinions, it also serves to validate the information you are using to construct an argument. There is enough material on the internet to teach you how to use Harvard referencing as well as a link on Oxford Brookes website.i Yet I still receive excuses from students, whose RAP is referred to me as containing plagiarised material, that they did not know about Harvard referencing.
But what about cheating? The recent well publicised reports of the taking of performance enhancing drugs by cyclist Lance Armstrong have destroyed his reputation and his achievements written out of history. He is now vilified throughout the world. NOBODY likes a cheat, particularly those who have been harmed by the cheating. We all know that there are organisations and individuals who are quite happy to encourage cheating by selling projects or writing them for students. In most countries, and certainly in the UK, this is a criminal offence committed by both the vendor and the buyer. It is described as “obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception” and can be punishable by imprisonment.
Why take the risk? Is any qualification obtained dishonestly of any value
What are we doing about it? At Oxford Brookes we have a very experienced group of markers and moderators who are very skilled at spotting plagiarism and collusion. We are also helped by sophisticated software that compares projects to thousands of pieces of academic work, books, journals and articles from all over the world and the database is growing every minute of every day including all RAPs that have previously been submitted to this electronic comparison. From the next submission period, ALL RAPs will be passed through this software, making it more likely than ever that plagiarised or cheated work will be identified.
The Academic Misconduct process is very thorough. All projects which are suspected of containing plagiarised material or of being the result of other misconduct (collusion or cheating) are referred to one of our academic conduct officers (ACOs). The grading of the RAP is then withheld, the student being advised of the reason for this. The ACO will conduct a thorough and lengthy investigation to determine whether academic misconduct is proven. The student is given the opportunity to supply evidence from their own paperwork and this is considered by the ACO before coming to a final judgement which will be communicated to the student. If it is judged that academic misconduct has not taken place, the original grading is released to the student. If the student is found guilty of academic misconduct there are a range of penalties that can apply as follows:
- If the misconduct is not too great, for example parts of the RAP are plagiarised through lack of proper referencing, it is quite likely that the RAP will be given a 100% reduction of the grade ( a mark of Zero), failing the RAP. The student will be asked to submit a completely different project when resubmitting. Any resubmissions will, inevitably, be closely scrutinised to ensure that there is no repeat of the earlier misconduct.
- In more serious cases of plagiarism or repeated cases, the case will be referred to the Academic Registrar of Oxford Brookes with a recommendation that the student is barred from making any further submissions to obtain the degree. This will certainly be the case where there is evidence of collusion or other form of cheating.
- In these serious cases, the matter will be referred to ACCA for further disciplinary action, which could include suspension or permanent exclusion from membership of ACCA. This penalty could also apply to any other member involved in the misconduct, including any student whose work was copied.
- As I mentioned earlier, serious cheating, such as buying as essay from a website is often also a criminal offence and, where appropriate, Oxford Brookes University would not hesitate to lay the evidence before the appropriate authorities to consider whether criminal proceedings should be instigated
So, I ask again, IS IT WORTH THE RISK? If you think it is, then you are not the sort of person who should become a member of ACCA and join the accountancy profession.
The easiest way to pass the RAP and obtain the degree is to work hard, as with everything else in life. It must be YOUR work entirely. That way, when you obtain your degree, as with your accountancy qualification, you can be justly proud of your achievement.