A student turned in a bunch of homework assignments, poorly organized and many not labeled. One of them was on a topic for several weeks from now. The student turned in a short essay for the assignment, which I have not given.

Most of the course material was prepared by someone else and is normally used by several of us adjuncts.
I've taught this course prior.

English is not the student's primary language (interesting since the essays turned in are in very good English...).

Since I haven't given the assignment, is it plagiarism? (What was turned in is straight up a copy of an internet source.)

Do I report them to the Chair/Dean for plagiarism?

  • 13
    "What was turned in is straight up a copy of an internet source" - isn't it plagiarism just because it copies an Internet source without attribution? the stuff about not having assigned it yet is not even necessary.
    – ff524
    Jul 18, 2016 at 5:54
  • 4
    Just as this does not appear to be explicitly stated here yet: Answering a question that was not asked yet is not plagiarism of its own (and it does not even necessarily constitute any misdemeanour at all). Jul 18, 2016 at 10:16
  • 2
    @O.R.Mapper, answering a question you haven't seen yet either constitutes precognition or some kind of cheating. So yeah, I'll go with cheating. Jul 18, 2016 at 13:07
  • 4
    @Matt Not really; it's possible to have the assignment instructions from previous years and still write the assignment yourself.
    – ff524
    Jul 18, 2016 at 13:23
  • 2
    @Matt: That does not match my experience. I see students anwer other questions than the ones being asked all the time. And every now and then, those questions that were answered happen to be questions I was actually going to ask at a later point. (And even if we are looking at cheating, plagiarism is of course only one out of many forms of cheating.) Jul 18, 2016 at 13:25

3 Answers 3


This is clear cut plagiarism. And not only is it plagiarism, it is also very poorly conducted plagiarism, which is a bit worse in my book, since it indicates that the student does not even takes studying seriously enough to read through the assignments and understand what he/she is plagiarizing.

Your university surely has guidelines. If you don't know the guidelines, you can ask the person responsible for undergraduate education at your institution, which will probably also be the person you should report to.

And let me just add one final thing: You don't do the student any favors by not reporting. Plagiarism exploits the mutual trust there always needs to be when teaching, and this is harmful for university education as such. Plagiarism and cheating should therefore always have consequences.


No. The plagiarism part is irrelevant here. You report them for cheating on their homework by copying it from the internet.

And after that, you seriously consider changing your assignments from year to year, even if slightly, to avoid this problem.

  • 12
    Copying homework from the Internet and passing it off as your own is plagiarism.
    – ff524
    Jul 18, 2016 at 6:29
  • 1
    It's (hopefully) a violation of your institution's academic integrity policies. The precise word you use to describe that violation--"cheating" or "plagiarism"--really isn't important.
    – JeffE
    Jul 18, 2016 at 12:12
  • 3
    @ff524 I agree with you that it is plagiarism; I never wrote otherwise. What I am saying is that we are stressing too much attention on the plagiarism, when the elephant in the room here is the student submitting an assignment they didn't write. If the solution ended with a note (c) 2016, Some Guy on The Internet, then the problem would still stand. Plagiarism, as in "wrongful appropriation of someone else's work without citation", is a secondary issue in this case. Jul 18, 2016 at 12:15
  • 1
    @FedericoPoloni: It was only after reading "If the solution ended with a note (c) 2016, Some Guy on The Internet, then the problem would still stand." that I got your point (that I fully agree with). Maybe you could add something to that extent to the answer? As it stands ("(...) plagiarism (...) irrelevant (...) report them for cheating (...)"), the answer sounds a lot like "It's not an apple, it's a fruit!" ;) Jul 18, 2016 at 16:46
  • 2
    @DavidZ: At first, I thought so, too. But I think what Federico is distinguishing is (1) the act of pretending to be the author of something written by another, by concealing the identity of the true author (plagiarism), and (2) the act of submitting a solution for homework that the student did not create on their own, irrespective of whether or not the true origin was concealed (indeed, I wouldn't call that plagiarism). The two misdemeanours are certainly linked here, but (1) is about misrepresenting the author, whereas (2) is about manipulating the skill evaluation process. Jul 18, 2016 at 22:40

Given the recent sentiment about retention from many administrators, just make sure you have a very solid case.

It is cheating, and should be treated as such. If the school/university/department has a policy, follow it. If not, propose one. Mine goes like this:

  1. The first instance of cheating or plagiarism receives a zero on the assignment
  2. After being warned, the second instance is a failing grade for the course

While the first instance may or may not be reported to the administration, the second one will. This may lead to disciplinary action up to dismissal from the University.

As an adjunct, you have to be very careful, ask for the chair's opinion or at least a TT colleague.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .