Derek Cox
School of Continuing Education
University of Nottingham

1 Introduction

Plagiarism by students worries teachers. Most of the time we are aware of it as an unwelcome presence on the margins of our world, where it has the status of being the most reviled and harshly judged form of academic dishonesty. Occasionally - and distressingly - it comes to visit, and we find students (perhaps including those we would least suspect) resorting to unacceptable behaviour.

There has been a surge in interest in interest in plagiarism and what to do about it in recent years, and there are now many guides available to indicate how academic practice and policy can be amended to suppress and prevent plagiarism. A rash of advice emerged in 2001, and guides by Carroll and Appleton (2001), Culwin and Lancaster (2001), McDowell and Brown (2001) and Stefani and Carroll (2001) give a mass of detailed and very useful advice on topics such as altering assessment regimes, inculcating good habits in students and so on.

However, another issue nags away at teachers. How do we know if our students are plagiarising? In a sense, we first need to catch our hare. What are the points we need to look out for in student assignments that might raise our suspicions that nefarious deeds are afoot? It is that question which I will examine here.