The trial of Damocles: An investigation into the incidence of plagiarism at an Australian university

Year: 2005

Author: Hasen, Maurie, Huppert, Michele

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Numerous studies have postulated that academic cheating in Higher Education is on the increase. Access through the Internet coupled with the increase in student numbers have both been cited as contributing factors. Students appear most likely to cheat when the risks of being detected are estimated to be lower than the potential gain. Previous studies have found that students do not regard academic staff as being efficient in the detection of plagiarism. An increase in staff efficacy should therefore be coupled with a reduction in the incidence of plagiarism. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the trial of a plagiarism detection device known as Damocles. The paper also reports on research involving 198 second and third year university students who were instructed to submit an assignment on disc that would then be run through the plagiarism detection software. Students were further instructed that anyone found to have plagiarised would receive zero for that assessment and have to face disciplinary procedures. It was expected that this would dissuade students from plagiarising, however, 4.5% of students were found to have intentionally plagiarised works not their own. The paper suggests that recklessness is a contributing factor that helps explain the behaviour of this consequence-resistant group of students.