I'm a graduate student in Physics. The past semester was online due to the current situation. We had a particular course named "Workshop course" which is about the metal shop where usually they teach about how to use essential equipment for various purposes. This course, like others, was online. It hasn't been any online classes, no doubt classes, etc. They just sent five youtube videos to watch, and that's it. We had to write a report about the two topics given in the final examination. One of the topics wasn't even in these videos.

Most students have used online material to write the report and plagiarized. Now I admit this to be misconduct. The instructor warned everyone about that and postponed the exam for the same reason.

I'm sure what everyone has done is wrong. But by what means, the course and its organization wasn't a misconduct. How could they expect someone to come up with something original? We aren't engineering students, and we don't have any background in this. I wanted to ask if the course was misconduct by the institute. Shall I ask the instructor to organize the course with proper classes (physical)?

Edit: It seems everyone thinks that our plagiarism is justified by the way course organization was done. But I'm not saying that. The only purpose for me to mention is that the institute does care about a good research in their domain. Hence they consider it to be very big misconduct. Therefore, after submitting everyone's report, it is given X grade to everyone, which means this examination will be conducted again after some time. Considering the institute cares about a good research, how do they justify their own organization, of course? Isn't that misconduct also? Isn't it a contradiction?

Also, just to add, I haven't plagiarized.

  • That's a lot of questions and some of them unanswerable I'd say. Also some things are not clear to me: There was a final examination, but then the instructor postponed the exam? I don't understand what was going on.
    – Dirk
    Dec 16, 2021 at 7:54
  • @Dirk After the report submission, We have been told that most of the student have plagiarized the report and hence the exam will again been conducted after some duration of time. Dec 16, 2021 at 8:06
  • Ah, ok, thanks for clarification.
    – Dirk
    Dec 16, 2021 at 8:09

2 Answers 2


This seems like an instance of the tu quoque logical fallacy. You admit that "most students" committed plagiarism, and that plagiarism is wrong. But you try to mitigate their culpability by pointing out unrelated ethical shortcomings on the university's part. This is indeed a logical fallacy; even if it is true that the university committed misconduct, that does not make it OK for students to commit misconduct.

I would also suggest that outrage at the poor course design is rather opportunistic. I suspect that if this plagiarism had not been detected and you had gotten an easy A, the students' outrage would be minimal.

At any rate, to your questions:

But by what means the course and its organization wasn't a misconduct....I wanted to ask if "The course was misconduct by the institute".

A poorly-designed course is not misconduct. You might feel "ripped off" if you were paying money for an expensive course that turned out to be some Youtube videos. But such things are not actionable (and you are presumably not paying tuition in any case).

How could they expect someone to come up with something original? We aren't engineering students and we don't have any background in this.

Sorry, I really have no sympathy for those who commit plagiarism. Did they attend (virtual) office hours? E-mail the professor to ask for help? Look for relevant books or videos? Grad students in physics should be well capable of finding ways to solve difficult problems without committing academic misconduct.

Moreover, they should be well catechized in how serious plagiarism is by now. If they had been transparent about the origin of the ideas they presented, they might have gotten a bad grade -- or maybe not, maybe the professor wasn't expecting original work and would have been happy with a pro forma summarization of something they read. But trying to argue that your professor's poor teaching somehow "entrapped" them into committing plagiarism is nonsensical.

Shall I ask the instructor to organize the course with proper classes (Physical)?

You can ask, but presumably the department has already had extensive discussions about what is possible given the "current situation" (as you put it). As should be clear by now, trying to imply that plagiarism was somehow a reasonable reaction to the virtual courses would not reflect well on you.

  • 1
    Please don't use "you". I haven't mentioned but I haven't plagiarised by any means. I have always cited the sources whenever used them and given credit to the original author. I have added few details, you can have look on the edit of the question. Dec 16, 2021 at 8:11
  • Yes, the question has changed significantly now. I have changed the pronouns only.
    – cag51
    Dec 16, 2021 at 8:14

To some extent, yes. You pay money to attend classes, and the institution commits to teaching you. If they don't do that, then you have a legitimate grievance. In this case the "standard" thing to do is file a complaint with your university. This could ultimately lead to the university paying you your money back. If your complaint fails, you could involve the courts (see this).

If you do file a complaint, you'll probably have to deal with the perception that you're complaining because you were caught plagiarizing - i.e. if the teacher hadn't caught you and you passed the course, then you wouldn't think the teaching is poor.

Shall I ask the instructor to organize the course with proper classes (Physical)?

You could, although if the reason you're doing remote learning is because of COVID, it's unlikely the instructor will be able to conduct physical classes.

  • I have written a little bit of detail in the question. You can have a look. Furthermore, The semester was online in the last same only, now we are returning to physical mode. Dec 16, 2021 at 8:08

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