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Plagiarism Questions

How are most students caught plagiarizing?

Most cases of plagiarism are detected by a faculty member or TA because the "voice" of the paper does not sound like the "voice" of the student or the paper does not address the question(s) asked on the assignment. Faculty frequently say they become suspicious when one or more of the following occurs:

  • The instructor recognizes the original source as that of another author.
  • The paper is not written in a voice consistent with the student’s other work or that of a Stanford undergraduate.
  • There is a voice or style change within the paper (i.e. some language is very basic and other sentences are very complex or technical).
  • The assignment does not answer the question asked.
  • The assignment does not cover material addressed in the course.
  • More than one student turned in a paper with the same, especially if unusual or wrong, material.

Once a faculty member becomes suspicious, he/she will often search online to see if the original source can be located. Otherwise, the Judicial Officer will conduct the investigation and try to find the original source.

Is there a standard punishment for plagiarism or is it done on an individual basis?

The standard penalty for a first-time violation of the Honor Code is a one-quarter suspension and 40 hours of community service. If the student is in his/her final quarter of enrollment the standard practice is to convert the one-quarter suspension into a two-quarter delay in degree conferral.

Note Regarding Grades

While a case is pending instructors are advised to assign a "I" until completion of the case. If a student is not charged or found not responsible by a Judicial Panel then the grade earned is assigned without penalty. If a student is found responsible by a Judicial Panel then the faculty member has the sole authority to determine the appropriate grade. While the majority of faculty issue a NP in the course, some choose to give a zero on the assignment/exam in question.

If not standardized, who makes that decision?

The Judicial Panel (composed of four students, one faculty and one staff) hearing the case considers precedent/past practice, the circumstances surrounding the case, and the student’s individual circumstances, when deciding the appropriate sanctions. Stanford’s Student Conduct Penalty Code limits the range of sanctions a Panel can consider. The Dean of Student Life reviews all penalties for consistency with the Penalty Code and with precedent/past practice. He can ask a Panel to reconsider its decision but he can not overturn it. (The only penalty that can be overturned is expulsion, which must be approved by the provost.)

How involved are the instructors after plagiarism incidents have been reported?

The Judicial Officer keeps the faculty member/TA apprised of the investigation and the student’s explanation. Additionally, the reporting party attends the hearing to present the evidence. Faculty members are informed of the outcome of the hearing and they issue the appropriate grade for the course (as stated above).

Who generally reports incidents of plagiarism?

Almost all plagiarism cases are reported by faculty or TAs. Students have reported a few cases to the teaching staff (usually because it is their own work that was plagiarized).

Once caught for plagiarism, are students then on probation or watched at all? Like some sort of parole?

No. The Student Judicial Charter of 1997 guarantees students confidentiality. No one is informed to "watch out" for a student who has violated the Honor Code. If a Judicial Panel imposes probation it means there is a "suspended" sanction that will go into effect IF the student is found to have violated the Honor Code again. The second Judicial Panel's members would not be notified of the first violation unless and until they reached the sanctioning phase of the second case.