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Accused of Plagiarism

Salt Lake City, UT |

I attend the University of Utah. I was recently accused of plagiarism for a research paper. My professor demanded me to resubmit my paper because the plagiarism checker turnitin detected a 23% similarity. As I was looking at the sources of the highlighted areas, I noticed that I have never even been on these websites. Some of the sources were various student papers that I have never even purchased. The quotes I entered had quotations and a citation to follow. So, I made changes to the highlighted areas and she wrote me again stating that she wants to meet with me about plagiarism. So, I decided to overlook my newly sent paper and it stated that 10% was related to a different set of sources. Again sources I have never been on. What should I say during the meeting with my professor?

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Attorney answers 2


Plagiarism is a very dangerous issue for students because there are no fixed standards that define it. The definition of consummated plagiarism varies within individual academic departments, among schools, across cultures, and within and across specific academic disciplines. This leaves students very much at the mercy of the individual personal value systems of instructors and university administrators.

In private universities and colleges, "plagiarism" can be found on virtually any facts alleged by the school because the fact-finding process available to the student is so weak and ineffectual.

One thing is certain: plagiarism is not measured or established by a percentage of overlap or commonality (10%, 1%, etc.), nor by the "results" that are calculated by the detection and analysis software that is widely available to the schools. The software provides a statistical analysis, but it does not serve as a definition or measure for use of that analysis.

The consequences of a plagiarism accusation and finding can be life-changing. You need to talk with a local administrative law attorney who has deep and successful experience in defending students in college and university internal disciplinary processes. These processes vary from school to school. Don't underestimate the situation; this can be terribly serious.


Good luck to you.

Christine McCall, License Advocates Law Group

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The burden is on the professor to prove that you plagiarized. Furthermore, the University of Utah is a state actor which means that the U.S. Constitution applies to them. One of the rights in the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees you a right to procedural due process. This means that the University cannot take adverse action against you without following some time of hearing and opportunity to rebut what is being said. Professors has large amounts of discretion regarding the grades they give. However universities especially state universities must follow their own established procedures if they wish to expel you. Anything you tell your professor can be used against you later.