I am doing a closed and open book exam recently. I was working so hard on it and hoping to pass the exam. However, I received an email that said there’s an evidence that I plagiarized. I was crying for days and couldn’t do anything. I can’t even concentrate on reading and understanding the link they send to me. In the meeting, they shown me an evidence and what surprising to me was, one sentence that I wrote almost 99% identical to a paper that I might read in the past. I have done some exercise question that is related to the subject/theme in the exam as well as listen to zoom classes audio. I’m not a native English speaker and I used grammarly to help with my grammar and the program most of the time suggest me to rewrite what I wrote, concisely. I also grew up in a country that used ‘memorizing’ as a way to study and answers exam. The evidence clearly not on my side but I am not cheating. I state that I am not guilty although it’s highly unlikely that’s going to be the outcome. Am I doing the wrong thing?

  • 5
    Only one sentence?? May 27, 2022 at 4:56
  • 1
    What is a "closed and open book exam"? May 27, 2022 at 6:28
  • 1
    @Part-timeEngineer yes only one sentence from the whole paper I assume
    – Marsh
    May 27, 2022 at 6:38
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    @FedericoPoloni the exam has a closed book section and open book section. We need to answer the closed book first before we can access the open book one
    – Marsh
    May 27, 2022 at 6:39
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    Did you write that sentence in the closed or open book part of the exam?
    – silvado
    May 27, 2022 at 8:00

2 Answers 2


Am I doing the wrong thing?

Assuming your characterisation is honest and complete, it would seem that the university is overreacting. If you have studied by reading books and papers, and then in a closed-book exam write a sentence that is almost identical to a sentence from those books or papers, I wouldn't consider that cheating or plagiarism. I've never seen an exam where one is required to cite sources, and exam answers are not a publication, so I'm not sure if one even can plagiarise when answering questions on an exam.

If their evidence of cheating relies on one sentence that is very similar to a sentence from a book or paper, defend yourself. One sentence is not much. It is reasonably possible that you have read the sentence, that it is an obvious way of formulating it, and that you subconsciously came up with the formulation you had already read, during the exam. Bring that up as your defence.

I hope that the university will not bring serious consequences based on what seems to be rather thin evidence. Defend yourself, because a "conviction" of plagiarism or cheating may impact you negatively for a long time to come.

  • I am not sure when is the follow up information or any meeting going to happen. I probably need an obudsman ? I don’t really know who’s to contact before and after the talk with my advisor I feel like he think I did cheat which makes me really sad. At that time (we talk) neither me and my advisor know which questions are the prof accused me for. I do bring my scramble notes and draft in words that I used during my exam to the meeting. I do have another one in one note as well but I didn’t shown that one.
    – Marsh
    May 28, 2022 at 2:41

In case you grow up in a place like mine, where memorialisation is stressed too much, it is absolutely necessary to know the standards and ethics by studying and realising on our own. Especially when we aren't encouraged to embrace the ethics with life, and the ethics remains confined within some dull and boring literature or study material.

Read about different kinds of plagiarism. Plagiarism doesnt always have to be word to word copy. If you have took an information from somewhere else, may it be your textbook or may it be from an website, but do not credit it properly, it is plagiarism. Looks like in your case, you have done it unintentionally. Confess your situation. Don't feel guilty; your professor's behaviour is not your responsibility. The best you can try is to remain as original as possible. If I was in your place, I would be rather thankful for spotting my mistake.

My suggestion - Next time be original. Write what you feel. In case you cannot remember the source, write that.

For a place like ours, where people have to write absolute lies on essays, or there is 'a right way' to draw something; originality is punished. Still, in long run, originality wins.

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    I think they accused me of two different thing. One is cheating because I have one sentence that look almost the same as a sentence in a paper. The second is plagiarism. I assume I did not cite it properly or ‘quote’ specifically on a paragraph that supposed to be quote. Because of the cheating part (they wrote it plagiarized in the email tho) I opt to not accept guilty.
    – Marsh
    May 27, 2022 at 6:52
  • @Marsh is that sentence structure is like something too obvious? like "1 mL 1mM NaOH was added to 1mL extract" or something like that? or something that makes the coincidence very likely? If it is the case you could feedback that. May 27, 2022 at 8:24
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    It’s more like a consequence after a definition of something.
    – Marsh
    May 27, 2022 at 20:12

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