Students understanding of plagiarism : a case study of the Criminology and Forensic Studies Discipline (CFSD), University of KwaZulu-Natal (Howard College), Durban, South Africa.
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Plagiarism has been generally distinct by different scholars; student plagiarism is defined as an academic dishonesty where students produce an academic work for others as their own (Jensen, Arnett, Feldman & Cauffman, 2002). The phenomenon is categorized as an “academic dishonesty” in the higher education institutions because is seen as a fraudulent act or efforts by a student to use unsanctioned or deplorable means in an academic work. It indicates unethical behavior or cheating. This behavior is seen as a serious matter and university are mandatory to increase more effort, resources and time in prevention of it, because without taking care of it can lead to impact even in the workplace after university. Academic fraud is a serious issue on academic writing as Weber (2012) states that student plagiarism sits as a special problem within higher education. This study aims to explore students understanding of plagiarism within Criminology and Forensic Studies Discipline on how their understanding of the phenomenon shapes their actions or behaviour. This study adopted qualitative research approach and underpinned by descriptive-interpretive paradigms (hermeneutics) to provide insight into the social phenomenon under study. The study used in-depth semi-structured face-to-face interviews for depth insight and reach information. Data was collected from 20 students in the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Howard College) within Criminology and Forensic Studies Discipline (CFSD) in the School of Applied Human Sciences under College of Humanities. A key selection criterion was level/ year of study, where 5 students from first year, 5 students from second year, 5 students from third year and 5 postgraduate students participated. This permitted for contrasts in terms of academic practices and understanding of plagiarism. Purposive sampling techniques were used to discover the sample. The findings revealed that students within the Discipline of Criminology and Forensic Studies are fully aware of the existence of plagiarism and they framed their understanding in the criminological perspective, where they placed plagiarism phenomenon as a crime and deviant behaviour. The students’ reports and suggestions provided insight that they take plagiarism incidences seriously and they tried to avoid it in many ways because it against the university policy. The findings also revealed that students hardly read the university plagiarism policy and procedure document or paying more attention just because of their laziness. Strategies in prevention of plagiarism were suggested by students, such as workshops about plagiarism, and compulsory module about plagiarism.