Retiring the mechanical approach

(re)conceptualising plagiarism through cultural artefacts


  • Karen Dwyer UCL


Student anxiety and uncertainty around the conventions of academic integrity remain an ongoing issue within higher education today. To date, punitive approaches have been the primary strategy in addressing this issue, alongside efforts to teach paraphrasing and citation practice. Yet, these latter approaches can be misleading in suggesting understanding plagiarism is simply a mechanical operation devoid of critical engagement with the underlying arguments of the text. Less emphasis has been given to the underlying principles of academic integrity and why these conventions are relevant in academic work. In this paper, I explore how cultural artefacts can be used alongside a philosophical dialogue technique to help students advance beyond a simplistic mechanical understanding of avoiding plagiarism in their conceptualisation of academic integrity. I argue that this approach can help students to conceptualise the ethical principles underlying the use of sources, to consider the differing cultural perceptions of ownership of ideas, and to understand approaches to identifying plagiarism. This approach is discussed in the context of how students (re)conceptualising the values of academic integrity is consistent with potential for new and innovative ways to promote student engagement.


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How to Cite

Dwyer, K. (2024). Retiring the mechanical approach : (re)conceptualising plagiarism through cultural artefacts. Student Engagement in Higher Education Journal, 5(3), 35–49. Retrieved from



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