One of my areas of work is that of plagiarism deterrence, in particular when using TurnItIn (software that helps a tutor detect matches between a piece of students work against the Internet and other students work). Dealing with plagiarism isn’t about just detecting copying – but it is a much wider issue looking at educating the learners, designing plagiarism out through assessment design, and then using the detecting tools as a deterrent not a rat catcher.
One part of the whole process is about referencing, and this in itself is a thorny issue. I have worked with staff who are sticklers for correct referencing and if a student has missed a comma out, or cited the wrong year of publication or something they have then treated the work as plagiarised, whereas the tutor down the corridor may not even bother to check the references. What is interesting to note, is that plagiarism is the act of passing something off as your own, which isn’t – so if you put down any form of reference (e.g. ‘I stole this from a Google Search’ ) – even if it is an awful reference – then you cannot treat that as plagiarism – you need to treat it as bad referencing, or bad academia, but not plagiarism.
The other issue is then about the importance of referencing styles – again some are sticklers for getting the (usually Harvard) referencing system absolutely spot on, whereas others (like me) recognise that the purpose of referencing is so that the writer, or any reader can easily locate the source of information.
I will admit that I hate referencing – I found it tedious, I didn’t fully understand the rules and sometimes even omitted a source from a piece of work, just to save me having to think about how to reference it, and it is with that, that the recent release from the OU excites, me – it will do the tedious hard work for me, allowing me to concentrate on the more important aspect of evaluating and analysing the work that I am creating.
For more information on the OU referencing tool go to