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I received an email from the university saying that the similarity report for my work identified that one of my answers shows a similarity to the answer within the script of a fellow student. They are asking to write a statement and explain what happened. Basically myself and my partner...we are studying the same thing and he copied one of my answers as he came from a night shift and he was very tired and he couldn’t think. Could you please advise what to answer. He received the same email and he has to write a statement as well. What should he write?

Thank you for your answers and advice.

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    Probably honesty would be good. If you find yourself in a hole it is a bad idea to keep digging.
    – Buffy
    Mar 18 at 21:46
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    Your problem isn't that someone alleges you conducted academic misconduct, your problem is that you conducted academic misconduct.
    – Cubic
    Mar 19 at 13:45
  • With no more information to go on, it is possible that the OP was unaware of the copying rather than facilitating it.
    – Buffy
    Mar 19 at 14:04
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    Did you know your partner copied your work? Did you give permission? If you did not give permission, when did you find out? These things substantially change the situation you are in.
    – Polygnome
    Mar 19 at 14:13
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Well, you let him copy. What else can you say?

Bear in mind that lecturers hate hunting down plagiarism/collusion. In one course, hunting the offences and collecting proof cost me more time than marking all submissions (and these were a lot).

You just created a bunch of pointless extra work for them. Don't increase it, you have already been caught. This is not a court lawyer cat and mouse game. You are not going to get out of it free by technical tricks and it's insulting to your lecturer's intelligence to try, trust me on that.

Put the cards on the table and promise with contriteness never to do it again (and, of course, adhere to this). That's your best bet.

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    Please, please, please follow this advice. We are just going through a pile of plagerism/collusion cases. There has to be consequences for cheating, but we understand that in very few cases will mallice be involved, and we want to help the students out best we can, particularly this year when everyone is going through a lot. But if the student flat out denies any wrong doing, all we can do is pass it up the chain to the a more official hearing, and the outcome/punishment is then out of our hands. Mar 19 at 0:32
  • I don't think it is obvious from what the OP writes that they permitted or facilitated the copying. That may be the case of course.
    – Buffy
    Mar 19 at 14:05
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    @Buffy OP was careful not to say it, but they gave a "reason" for their fellow student to copy, so I felt it was implied. Otherwise, OP probably would have been more indignant that they would be punished for an offense they had no part in. Mar 19 at 14:20
  • I agree that it is ambiguous. And your solution is correct if the OP did, in fact, do the deed.
    – Buffy
    Mar 19 at 14:23
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I have a slightly different answer from that of Captain Emacs:

How you should respond to this depends on a few factors:

  1. Did you encourage him to copy your answer?
  2. Did you know he copied your answer before he did it?
  3. If not, when did you find out? Before or after submission?
  4. Is he happy to be honest about what occurred?

If you actively told him to copy you, the jigs up, fess up, apologise, move on and learn your lesson.

If you knew he copied your answer but you didn't give him express permission, then it's a slightly more grey area. Arguably, you should have reported this to the prof but most reasonable academics would consider this a lesser offence than actively encouraging it. So again, make sure you press this home but only if it's true.

If you didn't find out he copied until you got the academic misconduct email, then you've done nothing wrong. This actually happened to me a couple of years ago, someone I'd never met had found the code for my coursework on my self-hosted GitLab instance (I've improved the security since then) and copied it wholesale. At this point, make it very clear that you didn't condone the cheating and were unaware of it. You should fight the charge tooth and nail.

Given that you say you work together regularly, you're likely of similar academic ability. So the chances of this defence succeeding largely revolve on whether your friend is willing to own up to copying it without permission. Whereas if you were of wildly different abilities, the prof could almost certainly tell whose work it was.

Overall, just be honest with your prof. Lay out exactly what happened, any mitigating circumstances you think might apply and promise to make sure it won't happen again. Even if you don't think it's your fault, promise to secure your work better in the future.

Take this as a learning experience and try not to get too down over it, stuff happens, we all make mistakes and as long as you're honest this isn't going to follow you forever, once it's been dealt with, that'll be the end of it.

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  • I think this is the proper analysis, given what the OP has said.
    – Buffy
    Mar 19 at 14:08

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