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10 discuss suspect pieces




‘I found your speech to be both good and original. However, the part that was original was not good. And the part that was good was not original.’

(attributed to Samuel Johnson)

You may have proof positive that some, or all of a particular piece of work is plagiarized. Perhaps your teachers' intuition says that something is amiss, the language and understanding of a piece is inconsistent with your assessment of a student’s ability. Making accusations however, can be seriously counter productive and may even leave you open to action.

At this stage the wise could reflect on their own role by considering the above strategies. Has the task been appropriately structured, the required skills explicitly taught, the process valued? In short, how comfortable are you that there was nothing more you should have done? Such consideration goes to the heart of one’s being and is always challenging. For the reflective practitioner however, it is the key to professional growth.

There are a number of common sense ways to discuss suspect pieces and it is important to have a structure in mind;

  • begin by asking them to discuss the process they went through getting the information and work through their outline, notes and draft(s)
  • move from the general to the specific, identifying words or phrases that caught your attention as inconsistent, curious, out-of-context usage or technical terms and ask them to explain/expand
  • explain your concerns and ask, ‘did you get any assistance at all?’ One source of help may be from a paid tutor and there is a fine line between receiving legitimate assistance and the tutor taking over the task. This is a difficult area and parents in particular may require guidelines
  • always bear in mind that you may not get an admission, and, possibly could be wrong
  • remember too that if you had followed all the strategies outlined above you might well not be having this conversation!
  • a useful way to conclude following an admission is to establish the consequence but also reiterate your expectation that next time they will go through the processes required and, perhaps give tips on this
  • above all remember the end goal is to keep students engaged in the learning process.





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All original photographs © J G Taylor, 2005

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