European students’ voices on plagiarism and academic practices

Anna Michalska


Researchers agree that there is a strong relationship between approach to plagiarism and the cultural background of students in Higher Education (Introna et al. 2003, Pennycook 1996, Yusof 2009). However, nationality and social influence are only one side of the problem. Other could be improper academic practices that are tolerated across different European institutions due to gaps in plagiarism regulations, as well as insufficiently plagiarism-proof standards of teaching and assessment.

This paper discusses the issue of plagiarism in Higher Education seen from the perspective of students from diverse European countries. Using qualitative methods of data collection, such as focus groups and interviews, along with basing her research on phenomenographical approach, the author was able to investigate students’ beliefs on proper and improper academic practice, their understanding of plagiarism and reasons for dishonest behaviour. The author believes that by approaching students directly using semi-structured discussion, rather than questionnaires, it was possible to build a rapport and obtain more information about attitudes and practices among focus groups participants, as well as document the unheard voices of ordinary students.

The author made an observation that it is possible to draw a link between plagiarism and the concept of "loyalty" (based on Sykes and Matza 1957) that can be exploited to explain students’ attitudes and improper academic practices. The author believes that the interviewed students commit plagiarism not because of their unethical or immoral intentions, but rather due to specific hierarchy of values that they follow.

This paper was submitted to the International Integrity & Plagiarism Conference which ran between 2004-2014. The paper was peer reviewed by an independent editorial board and features in the conference proceedings.