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Reporting Plagiarism

"Students shall not be penalized for suspected plagiarism. It is the responsibility of the instructor to demonstrate the accuracy of the charge." [Undergraduate Calendar]

Suspected plagiarism should be treated very seriously. We are dealing with people's reputations and their prospects for the future. Penalties for a second offense can be severe (it can result in expulsion from the University). Since so much is at stake, students convicted of plagiarism often engage in lengthy appeal procedures. Thus it is very important to carefully document the whole process. These documents are invaluable in the appeal process which often occur so long after the offense that memory of the incident has faded. The following is a guideline to help teaching assistants prepare a plagiarism report.

Guidelines for Teaching Assistants

The first duty of a teaching assistant who suspects plagiarism is to review the University's and the Department's stated policies on plagiarism. The University's policy is stated in the "Academic Regulations and University Policies" section of the current Undergraduate Calendar. The Department's policy can be found under the Policies section.

The teaching assistant should then prepare a plagiarism report which will accompany the originals of the assignments in question (along with any other pertinent documentation - output, program listings, etc.). The plagiarism report should preferably be no more than a page in length. It should include as much information as might be useful during the investigation, interview and possible appeal.

The exact contents of the report will depend on the circumstances. However as a guideline, consider the following kinds of questions. How are the assignments similar? How are they different? For the given assignment how similar are other (third party) submissions? - i.e., short and simple programs often appear similar even when developed independently. What is your assessment of the knowledge and competence of the students involved? Do the accused students appear to work together in the laboratories? What
is your personal estimate of the likelihood that this is a case of plagiarism?

Once your report is completed please proofread it carefully. Remember that this report may become part of the documentation presented to the Dean of Science and/or the Senate Subcommittee on Appeals. Once you are satisfied with your report please date and sign it. The report, along with the originals of any pertinent documentation should then be passed to the senior demonstrator.

Guidelines for the Senior Demonstrator

The senior demonstrator should review the most recent copies of the University's and the Department's stated policies on plagiarism. The University's policy is stated in the "Academic Programs and Regulations" section of the current Undergraduate Calendar. The Department's policy can be found under the Policies section.

If the situation warrants, the senior demonstrator will bring the matter to the attention of the course instructor (who, in consultation with the chair, will ultimately decide whether to proceed with a plagiarism hearing).

The senior demonstrator should then prepare a plagiarism report which will accompany the originals of the assignments in question (along with any other pertinent documentation). The plagiarism report should preferably be no more than two pages in length. It should include as much information as might be useful during the interview and any subsequent appeal.

The senior demonstrator's report should contain information on the academic history of the students in the given course. This would include all marks obtained so far in the course (assignments, tests, etc.). A major part of the report should be devoted to the senior demonstrator's own observations on the attitudes, working relationships, and academic competence of the suspected plagiarists. Much of this information will be
gathered during the senior demonstrator's informal interview with the students. It is also important to describe any disciplinary (or other) problems known to the senior demonstrator with respect to the students under suspicion. The senior demonstrator should also record the current mailing address for each student.

Once the report is completed it should be carefully proofread. Remember that this report may become part of the documentation presented to the Dean of Science and/or the Senate Subcommittee on Appeals. The report should then be dated and signed and passed to the chair along with the originals of any pertinent documentation (this includes the TA reports, a copy of the course outline, and a copy of the relevant assignment).

In addition to the above, the senior demonstrator may be asked to attend the plagiarism hearings along with the students and the course instructor. The senior demonstrator should make and retain personal notes during the interview that can be used to refresh the senior demonstrator's memory should he or she be required to testify at an appeal.