An investigation of plagiarism by Nigerian students in Higher Education

  • Stella-Maris Orim

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Plagiarism is a worldwide problem that is widely recognised in developed countries. There is increasing plagiarism awareness in developing countries such as Nigeria. Problems can arise when students with a low level awareness of plagiarism move from developing to developed countries for further studies. Given their previous academic background which differs from that of the western education system, some students contend with issues of plagiarism for most of the period of their study overseas.

    This thesis identifies a need to explore issues related to the Nigerian university system including Nigerian students studying in Nigerian universities and those travelling overseas for further studies. This investigation into student textual plagiarism was aimed at exploring the awareness, perception and attitude of Nigerian students to plagiarism. Furthermore, the research aimed to determine the types and causes of student plagiarism and Nigerian universities’ responses, policies, guidelines and prevention mechanisms. The thesis proposes a conceptual model for managing the occurrence of student plagiarism that can be consistently used across the Nigerian universities as an approach to the deterrence of plagiarism amongst students.

    A mixed methodology was adopted to harness the advantages of both qualitative and quantitative methods with a greater leaning on the qualitative data collected using a phenomenographic approach. Findings from this research confirmed the perceived occurrence of student plagiarism in Nigerian universities studied, showing that a significant proportion of students were unaware of the concept, and where they claimed awareness and understanding, their understanding was partial.

    This research revealed that the major causes of the perceived occurrence of Nigerian students’ textual plagiarism were associated with the students, staff, universities and the society. The thesis discusses these findings in the context of existing literature. Findings related to the students revealed issues in relation to the lack of: awareness, study skills, mastery of requisite academic writing skills, previous experience with virtual learning environments, mastery of information and communication technology skills. Findings also identified inadequate perception of the concept and inability to acquire and effectively transfer the skills from the learning outcomes of the ‘technical writing’ course offered in their first or second year to other courses offered.

    Issues identified in relation to the lecturers were: perception and disposition towards teaching the requisite skills, the degree of emphasis they placed on the concept, poor monitoring of the students’ use of the skills acquired and the type of roles they modelled.

    Regarding the institutions, issues identified were related to the academic learning environment. This was with respect to the: academic climate and culture, infrastructure, pedagogy, perception of the institutions’ views about the importance of plagiarism and institutional policies, procedures and guidelines on dealing with student plagiarism. On the part of the government, there were issues regarding inadequate financial commitment to the education sector.

    The proposed conceptual model for managing the occurrence of student plagiarism is designed around the findings of this research. Findings from the research impacted on the Nigerian universities in several ways, particularly in the area of raising student plagiarism awareness and highlighting the need for upholding academic integrity which has contributed to the recent adoption of Turnitin as a standard tool for checking text matching in 115 Nigerian universities.
    Date of Award2014
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorJohn Davies (Supervisor), Irene Glendinning (Supervisor) & Erik Borg (Supervisor)


    • plagiarism
    • Nigeria
    • international students
    • higher education

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