Procedures for Dealing with Plagiarism

If plagiarism is detected or suspected in a student’s coursework, faculty must follow key procedures to ensure that the incident is handled appropriately and consistently and that the university is kept informed. Use the following definitions and steps to ensure that all incidents are handled appropriately.

For questions or concerns regarding suspected plagiarism, consult our student resource guide Understanding Plagiarism or contact the Plagiarism Prevention Program staff at acadintegrity@webster.edu.

Use Common Definitions of Plagiarism

The following definitions of minimal, substantial, and complete plagiarism are adapted with permission from Westmont College.

Minimal plagiarism is defined as doing any of the following without attribution:

  • Inserting verbatim phrases of 2-3 distinctive words or inserting small parts of media, software, or other materials
  • Substituting synonyms into an original sentence rather than rewriting the complete sentence
  • Reordering the clauses of a sentence
  • Imitating the sentence, paragraph, or organizational structure, or writing style of a source or using a source's line of logic, thesis or ideas

These incidents will most commonly be addressed exclusively within the course. Instructors should utilize course materials or other resources to educate the student of the issue. Repeated minimal plagiarism may subsequently be treated as substantial at the faculty member's discretion. See further detail about procedures below.

Substantial plagiarism is defined as doing any of the following without attribution:

  • Inserting verbatim sentences or longer passages from a source or inserting significant parts of media, software, or other materials
  • Combining paraphrasing with verbatim sentences to create a paragraph or more of text
  • Repeatedly and pervasively engaging in minimal plagiarism
  • Reusing or modifying a previously submitted paper (e.g., from another course) for another assignment without obtaining prior approval from the instructors involved

As with minimal plagiarism, this can be addressed by the faculty within the course. In addition, the instructor may choose to enroll the student in the Plagiarism Prevention Program. If the student has already completed the tutorial as documented by the PPP, the Academic Resource Center will organize an academic consultation. Third offenses, and second offenses that are documented as complete plagiarism, are reported to the appropriate academic dean as a code violation, which may warrant referral of the case to the Academic Honesty Board for a hearing on potential suspension or dismissal.* See further detail about procedures below.

Complete plagiarism is defined as doing any of the following:

  • Submitting or presenting someone's complete published or unpublished work (paper, article, or chapter, media, software, or other materials)
  • Submitting another student's work for an assignment, with or without that person's knowledge or consent
  • Using information from a campus file of old assignments
  • Downloading a term paper from a web site
  • Buying a term paper from a mail order company or web site

In addition to being dealt with in the course, the instructor may use the PPP to have the student complete a plagiarism tutorial and participate in an academic consultation. Second offenses are reported to the appropriate academic dean as a code violation, which may warrant referral of the case to the Academic Honesty Board for a hearing on potential suspension or dismissal.* See further detail about procedures below.

Extreme plagiarism is defined as doing any of the following:

  • Repeatedly plagiarizing on minor assignments while avoiding grades that lead to automatic dismissal
  • Patently denying evidence that has been reviewed by the faculty and supporting staff
  • Profiting from plagiarism
  • Stealing material through illicit or coercive means
  • Responding in a disrespectful and abrasive manner to a charge of plagiarism that has been reviewed by the faculty and supporting staff

Incidents of extreme plagiarism are reported immediately to the appropriate academic dean for a decision on further action. Faculty need not include the Academic Resource Center, but it is recommended to provide a second opinion and to prepare any additional documentation for the academic dean. See further detail about procedures below.

*It is likely that academic deans will not pursue further action for graduate students as course failure already triggers academic dismissal or probation.

Steps for Reporting All Forms of Plagiarism

1. Collect information and documentation about the incident. Gather the student’s original submission, the Turnitin Similarity Report (if available), and any other pertinent or supporting files or notes, including any relevant communication or exchanges with the student. Save these digitally whenever possible.

2. Discuss the incident with the student. To have a full understanding of the situation, faculty must make every attempt to contact the student, evaluate the situation, and discover more about the incident. In this discussion, it may become clearer whether the incident stemmed from deliberate dishonesty or through ignorance or carelessness in source use. Having this knowledge has significant bearing on how the situation should be handled by faculty and/or the university. 

3. Complete the Academic Dishonesty Report in Canvas Download (accessible via the Help icon). This generates a form sent to the Plagiarism Prevention Program Specialist. Faculty are encouraged to complete this form for any instance of plagiarism, great or small, so that the university can maintain consistent records and track repeat offenses. Also, this form should be used regardless of how the incident is handled. If faculty wish to or have already dealt with the incident on their own, a report is still needed to inform the university of the incident. Faculty can note on the form that no further action is required.

• Follow up this form by e-mailing collected documentation to acadintegrity@webster.edu.

• Once these materials have been sent, the Plagiarism Prevention Program Specialist will follow up with faculty members to determine what further steps need to be taken (if any) to handle the situation.

4. Instructors can implement their own remedial action. Plagiarism/research tutorials, consultations, or requiring resubmission of the plagiarized work are all common remediation for students who have plagiarized.

5. Determine what academic repercussions are pertinent to the situation, if any. Naturally, faculty may decide these consequences; common repercussions would be a reduced grade for the assignment, a failing grade for the assignment, or a failing grade for the course. See the university’s Academic Dishonesty Policy for more detail.

6. If remedial action isn’t effective or if the incident warrants further action beyond the instructor’s disciplinary response, faculty can request that the Academic Resource Center follow up with the student to take the plagiarism tutorial (the Plagiarism Prevention Program) or to hold an academic consultation with the student. See the Plagiarism Prevention Program section for more details about the program and corresponding procedures. See below for more information about academic consultations.

Academic Consultations

Academic Consultations are mandatory reviews of the consequences of another offense.

For undergraduate students:

Consultations will be facilitated by the Academic Resource Center and will include the academic department chair (and campus director or designee if applicable). In addition, the Student Success Committee or International Student Success Committee should be notified in the cases when the consequences (for example, failing the course) will place the student in academic jeopardy. The appropriate committee can provide additional referrals if necessary and may be able to identify if the student is exhibiting other behavioral issues that should be considered.

This mechanism of notification will address the behavioral aspect of plagiarism (as it is not strictly an academic violation but also a violation of behavioral code) and in extreme cases, the chair can then decide to report the case to the appropriate academic dean as a code violation, which may warrant referral of the case to the Academic Honesty Board for a hearing on potential suspension or dismissal.

For graduate students:

Consultations will be facilitated by the Academic Resource Center and will include the department chair and the campus director or designee if applicable. Academic Resource Center will notify the appropriate department chair of consultations for students in the department, but due to the dispersed nature of graduate programs, chairs may determine that they do not wish to involve themselves.

Unlike undergraduate dismissals, behavioral dismissals may not be warranted for graduate students due to the nature of the probation and dismissal policies tied to graduate students. If a student receives a deficient grade due to plagiarism, the penalties are as follows:

Before advancement to candidacy (12 core hours completed, does not include prerequisites), if students receive a single grade of C, they will automatically be placed on academic probation, limited to 1 class per term, and notified via mail. If students receive a second grade of C or a single grade of F (or ZF, in the case of Incompletes that are converted after one year), they will be dismissed from the program.

After advancement to candidacy, a student who receives three C grades, a combination of a C and an F, or two F grades will be dismissed from the program.

The Academic Resource Center will also have the ability to forward a plagiarism case to the appropriate dean for further action if necessary. An example of a case where this may be necessary would be the repeat offender who has already been through the plagiarism tutorial, may have multiple issues documented, but whose final offense may yield a grade for the course that does not result in dismissal. In cases like these, the Academic Resource Center will reserve the right to request that a dean consider whether the case is a code violation, which may warrant referral of the case to the Academic Honesty Board for a hearing on potential suspension or dismissal.

Students who are dismissed have the right of appeal with one exception: students who are conditionally admitted (based on an undergraduate cumulative GPA of 2.0 to 2.49999) will be dismissed with no right of appeal if they receive any grade lower than a B- prior to advancement to candidacy. However, they may appeal for readmission after the passage of one calendar year, as may students who are denied reinstatement.

In the case of students who appeal for reinstatement or readmission to the Graduate Council, a recommendation (much like that requested from the site director, instructor, or dean) can be provided by Academic Resource Center detailing each student's progress with the PPP.

Given this, it may not be necessary to utilize consultations with department chairs since academic probation and dismissal policies for graduate students are more limiting than for undergraduate students.

Academic Honesty Board

The purpose of the Academic Honesty Board is to hear cases involving charges of student violations of the policies pertaining to academic dishonesty, including plagiarism and cheating, in cases that might involve suspension or expulsion.

For complete details on the Academic Honesty Board, please visit the Student Code of Conduct and Judicial Procedures section of the Student Handbook.