Academic Misconduct: Self-Plagiarism

If you or a loved one faces self-plagiarism charges at college or university, it's essential to approach these academic misconduct charges with the gravity they require. Academic misconduct charges can follow a student through their academic career, so you must proceed carefully when faced with the accusation. Sometimes students and families will agree to the charges, and admit guilt, thinking that the charge isn't serious. However, the ramifications of an academic misconduct mark on your transcript or academic record can be long-lived and impact more than the individual class where the accusation occurred.

What Does Self-Plagiarism Include?

Sometimes students study specific areas of research and turn in papers on these areas of interest. As an example, your theater class might study A Street Car Named Desire and require a paper on the topic. A month later, if your English literature class studies the same play and assigns a paper on the play, it's critical that the writing in your second paper be completely original. If you used sections of the first paper in the second one, that could be considered self-plagiarism by your university or college.

Students and professors tend to have differing opinions about what is considered self-plagiarism, so it's important to understand how your specific university or college defines it. Sometimes self-plagiarism isn't specified under the code of conduct or student handbook, and instead, schools pursue the charges under general plagiarism regulations. As a result, students may face academic misconduct charges when they had not had any intention to cheat at all.

How Can I Defend Myself From Self-Plagiarism Allegations?

If your professor has accused you of self-plagiarism, it's crucial that you not react rashly. Although the accusation may surprise you, it's important that you take some steps to protect yourself. The list could be long and extensive, but for ease of use, we've kept it simple here.

First, you must review your school's code of conduct or student handbook. Each university or college will have its own unique regulations around what constitutes an offense, how an offense is processed, what disciplinary proceedings look like, and so forth. Spend some time reviewing your school's document so that you know what is coming. That knowledge will allow you to make sure that you're prepared to handle the process. The handbook or code should also define what is included under “self-plagiarism”

Second, you should document everything that concerns your case. Do you have the old paper that your professor alleges you self-plagiarized? Gather any communication from any professors involved: emails, messages on Blackboard, and so on. If you have notes from the specific assignments, gather those into one place as well. An experienced attorney-advisor will be able to look through these documents and recommend ways that they might strengthen or weaken your arguments.

Third, stay calm. It's easy to panic when you receive a charge for academic misconduct, especially with how much could be lost. It's important that you stay calm as you approach the case. One way to do this is to reach out to an experienced attorney-advisor, which brings us to the fourth step!

Fourth, research attorney-advisors who can assist you with your charge. Their expertise will enable you to create a strategy for how to approach your hearing. Speak with them before you respond to any allegations from your university.

Finally, you mustn't discuss your case with anyone at your university or college. Self-plagiarism is serious, and you may want to defend yourself. However, you should wait for the hearing.

What Are Potential Consequences I Could Face For Self-Plagiarism?

Consequences for self-plagiarism can impact not only your current studies but also your future, depending on your college or university's individual policies and procedures. There are a variety of sanctions that the school may choose to impose, including probation, suspension, expulsion, loss of scholarships (both sports and academics), loss of academic honors, and loss of internship opportunities. The penalties at a school often increase if there are multiple offenses and might start out as low as a failing grade on an assignment.

Other potential consequences, often termed “collateral consequences”, might include difficulty applying to graduate school, medical school, or law school. Additionally, if on your permanent record, academic misconduct could follow you if you apply for government positions that require clearance checks. With such potential consequences, it's important that you take the self-plagiarism allegations seriously.

How Can An Attorney-Advisor Help My Defense?

An attorney-advisor who understands academic misconduct disciplinary hearings will be able to advise you on best practices for fighting the allegations. They will be able to bring their expertise to your case and recommend the best ways to frame your defense. With such grave consequences possible, it's crucial that you not wait to speak with an attorney-advisor.

Make certain that you communicate with your attorney-advisor about all the details of your case so that they have as much information as possible when it comes to formulating a defense strategy. Some schools provide neutral advisors for academic misconduct hearings, however this individual is usually there purely to provide information about the school's policies, not to work on your behalf. Having someone who is dedicated to your best interests is critical.

Contact An Experienced Attorney-Advisor

Self-plagiarism policies are often not clearly outlined, leaving it as a greyer area for colleges and universities. It's important if you've been charged with plagiarism to speak with an attorney-advisor who can help you achieve the best possible outcome. An experienced attorney-advisor will understand how to best approach your school's disciplinary proceedings. They'll be able to assist you in navigating the ins and outs of a hearing and what evidence could strengthen your argument or case. Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have worked with countless students over many years and have successfully helped them get through the challenging time with the least possible impact on their future. Contact us today at 888-535-3686 or reach out online so that your right to due process is protected!

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact our offices today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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