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Retribution, deterrence and reform : the dilemmas of plagiarism management in universities
journal contributionposted on 2010-02-01, 00:00 authored by Wendy Sutherland-SmithWendy Sutherland-Smith
Universities face constant scrutiny about their plagiarism management strategies, policies and procedures. A resounding theme, usually media inspired, is that plagiarism is rife, unstoppable and university processes are ineffectual in its wake. This has been referred to as a 'moral panic' approach (Carroll & Sutherland-Smith, forthcoming; Clegg, 2007) and suggests plagiarism will thwart all efforts to reclaim academic integrity in higher education. However, revisiting the origins of plagiarism and exploring its legal evolution reveals that legal discourse is the foundation for many plagiarism management policies and processes around the world. Interestingly, criminal justice aims are also reflected in university plagiarism management strategies. Although universities strive for deterrence of plagiarism in a variety of ways, the media most often calls for retribution through increasingly tougher penalties. However, a primary aim of the justice system, sustainable reform, is not often reported in the media or visible in university policies or processes. Using critical discourse analysis, this paper examines the disjunction between media calls for increased retribution in the wake of moral panic and institutional responses to plagiarism. I argue that many universities have not yet moved to sustainable reform in plagiarism management.