I sit on my department's academic misconduct committee. Today we had one of those cases where it wasn't clear what the right answer was. The assignment was for the students to design an experiment based on a previous experiment of their choosing and to write it up like a research proposal. The student took large blocks of text from the article describing the original experiment and tweaked each sentence to fit with the new experiment. After every sentence the student fastidiously added a reference to the original article. Has the student committed an academic offence?
The committee decided that it was not an academic offence and that the work should not be penalized for plagiarism, but that it would likely receive a very low grade due to a complete lack of originality and a failure to show any understanding of the key concepts.