Dealing with suspected plagiarism where the source cannot be identified

Occasionally, a marker may be faced with a piece of work that is suspected to be substantially plagiarised, but where the source cannot be identified. In such circumstances, there may be a suspicion that someone else has written the essay. The following course is particularly helpful where the work is of an advanced standard not hitherto achieved by the student, and not typical for students of that category: eg an undergraduate turns in an essay of postgraduate standard.

In such cases the need is, in the absence of evidence of the source used, for some evidence that the work is not that of the student. The recommended course is that as part of the investigation by the Chair of the Board of Examiners, the student be given notice that the student will be asked academic questions on the submitted essay. For this purpose, the Chair should have in attendance an academic member of staff able to question the student on the technical academic content.

The questions should be prepared in advance and the answers to the questions should be recorded in writing. These answers may provide simple evidence that the student has not written the work in question through the inability to answer questions on the substance of the work. Such simple evidence may be used in the assessment irregularities procedure.