My Child Was Accused of Plagiarism. Now What?

November 11, 2021
student on computer


Not all cheating looks alike. We regularly defend students accused of academic integrity violations, and we find that no two cases are alike. Plagiarism and behavior constituting academic misconduct on college campuses is far more complex than ever before. In today’s age of online tutoring platforms and class box accounts containing resources from prior semesters, the line between permissible and impermissible assistance is sometimes unclear. Likewise, when it comes to collaboration with classmates, what’s acceptable in one class may be sanctionable in another.

Confusion Around University Collaboration Policies

Collaboration policies in student codes of conduct can be confusing to students unfamiliar with these types of policies. The confusion has become so problematic that Princeton University, for example, has created a series of videos about collaboration, conducting research with integrity, and giving and receiving appropriate feedback on assignments. With a growing number of students aspiring for graduate school, the competition on college campuses is fierce and sometimes students unwittingly find themselves accused of plagiarism.

What To Do if Your Child Is Accused of Plagiarism

If your child is accused of plagiarism, it’s important to work with a lawyer experienced in academic integrity matters. Defending these cases requires strategy and an understanding of nuance that is often difficult for a student to navigate. Successful plagiarism defenses often entail the use of expert witnesses and specialized software to analyze the student’s work in question. However, in order to build a successful plagiarism defense, it is important to start with answering basic questions – starting with: What is the basis for the plagiarism allegation? Has your child been accused of plagiarism due to poor paraphrasing and a lack of proper citation? Has your child been charged with self-plagiarism? Believe it or not, students can face self-plagiarism charges if they turn in their own work from a prior class without disclosing that the work has been previously submitted in some form. Or, has your child been accused of plagiarism because the submitted assignment had too high of a percentage of similarity to another student’s work?

What Makes a Successful Plagiarism Defense?

After determining the precise nature of the plagiarism accusation, a plagiarism defense requires review of the course syllabus to determine the parameters established by the professor for students’ use of outside study resources and collaboration.  While a significant amount of learning can occur through collaboration, students are still expected to submit their own work. A successful plagiarism defense will likely require a student to retrace steps and provide evidence of doing their own analysis or problem solving. An academic integrity lawyer working with your child will want to review your child’s class notes, prior assignments and other evidence of independent work.

Sometimes, if a student’s work has a high percentage of similarity to another classmate’s work, it can be helpful to analyze office hour attendance. Particularly in science and math classes where complex problem sets are regularly assigned, students may attend multiple office hour sessions with classmates and end up having similar answers.

Expert witnesses may also be useful for a plagiarism defense. We regularly work with professionals who are former higher education administrators experienced in the fields of student misconduct and academic integrity. Sometimes, these experts write reports that can make or break a case outcome.

Overall, cheating and plagiarism can be a lot more than just copying from another student’s homework or test responses. Seemingly innocent studying among a group of bright and hardworking students can lead to academic integrity charges. When your child’s academic record is at stake, work with an attorney experienced in plagiarism defense and academic integrity. Contact our academic misconduct attorneys for assistance today.

See also: Real Talk Podcast: Academic Integrity & Plagiarism – Keeping it ‘Ouriginal’