Plagiarism Defined?

A multiple case study analysis of institutional definitions


  • Kara Ronai


Academic writing, Plagiarism, Higher education


This multiple case study examines seven institutional documents from universities in four countries (Australia, China, Finland and Germany) with the aim of determining how plagiarism is defined in these institutional contexts. This research expands on previous analyses of university plagiarism policies in the Anglosphere (e.g., Kaktiņš, 2014; Sutherland-Smith, 2011), and particularly the notion that institutional definitions of plagiarism contain “six elements” (Pecorari, 2002). Using the six elements model of plagiarism as a theoretical basis, the documents in this study were analysed using deductive content analysis. The findings of this analysis revealed that the definitions of plagiarism were consistent across the contexts, with all policies containing five of the six elements in their definitions. At two institutions, however, the element of intentionality was not addressed in the definition of plagiarism. Furthermore, the extent of discussion of certain elements of plagiarism (e.g., the need for source acknowledgement), and an emphasis on “good academic practice” across the documents revealed the need for ongoing research that considers how institutions construct official definitions of plagiarism.



How to Cite

Ronai, K. (2020). Plagiarism Defined? A multiple case study analysis of institutional definitions. Apples - Journal of Applied Language Studies, 14(1), 25–46.