If an allegation of plagiarism has been made against you, then you need to act quickly and decide how you are going to defend yourself.
The consequences of being found guilty of plagiarism could lead to a variety of penalties being imposed against you. Among the worst is being permanently excluded from your university or college course, which could also negatively impact on your intended career path.
Plagiarism is a very contentious area because coursework that you submit will usually include passages of writing and ideas from other people’s work. The key is in referencing these sections appropriately to acknowledge the original creator. Failure to do this, even by accident, could still lead to you being found guilty of plagiarism.
If you have been accused of plagiarism you will be invited by letter to a meeting to discuss your case. In the letter you will be informed of the precise nature of the allegation, the work it relates to, those sections they believe have been plagiarised, and the original source they believe it was copied from.
Gathering evidence to support your case
Upon receipt of this letter you need to compile the information and evidence you are going to need to defend yourself.
Firstly, do you accept the allegation or not? Even if you believe that you have plagiarised accidentally you should be clear on this before you state your case.
For your own benefit you should write down your response to the allegation and refer to it in the meeting. Do not go into the meeting trying to remember everything in your head: this is a recipe for becoming flustered, forgetting key points and not representing yourself appropriately.
Typically, the meeting will involve the Head of department, your course tutor, and possibly other stakeholders who might be involved in the course module. Somebody will also be taking the minutes.
You will also be able to take somebody with you to offer support and this is where you might want to seek legal help. A specialist can not only advise you, but also help you to compile the appropriate evidence and defend your case rigorously.
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Salima Mawji is a director at Education Law specialists Match Solicitors, recognised as one of the UK’s leading lawyers in further and higher education. Described in Chambers UK as “very effective”, she has a very high success rate in internal university appeals. Salima regularly speaks at high-profile events and is a commentator for national media, most recently appearing on ITV’s Exposure: Undercover Colleges.