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Critical Analysis of Journal Article: Applying Ethical Theories

Assignment Task 

Writing a critique of an academic journal paper.The rationale for this first summative assignment is to 

  1. Introduce you to the Library and the Library systems. 
  2. Develop the academic skills for working at Masters’ level. 
  3. To receive early feedback on your academic writing skills. 

In particular this assignment is aligned to and contributes towards elements of learning outcomes 1, 3 and 4 of this unit i.e. to provide a critical review and synthesis of relevant literature, to interpret data and to critically discuss findings. 

Assignment Details and Instructions 

Find and read the following academic journal paper: 

Granitz, N. and D. Loewy (2007), Applying Ethical Theories: Interpreting and Responding to Student Plagiarism, Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 72, pp 293-306. 

  1. Summarise the paper IN YOUR OWN WORDS. (250 words) 
  2. Critically discuss the methodological approach of the research reported in this paper. Ask yourself: What are its strengths? Are there any weaknesses? Also, position the paper in relation to current thinking on the subject of plagiarism. (750 words) 
  3. Reference your work. Your critique must be underpinned with scholarly work and academic thinking. Use academic sources to substantiate your views. You must list the references used at the end of your critique, using MMU Harvard style. 

This critique is not about the format of this academic paper or how it is presented, it is about the contents, the purpose and the strength of the research being reported. 

Total word count – 1,000 words (Summary 250 words, Critique 750 words, References excluded) 



In present day’s “copy and paste generation”, plagiarism comes up as an unremitting, complex issue that is misunderstood and considered important only at the academic level. This view is considered under the present article by presenting a research study explaining the reasons as provided by the students while defending their act of plagiarism. The reasons as provided by students can act as the basis of specific practical recommendations focused on reducing plagiarism while designing programs that encourage students to write original papers and maintain academic honesty. 

 The article explains that the research is conducted on the basis of an ethical framework for evaluating the reasons that students provide in cases when their papers are caught to be showing the act of plagiarism. The framework includes the six ethical theories of deontology, utilitarianism, rational self-interest, Machiavellianism, cultural relativism and situational ethics. Here, the content analysis method is followed while implementing the ethical framework to analyse the recorded content found in the confidential students’ files identified as containing plagiarised work at a US University. The results of the research show that deontology followed by situational ethics is the major reason of plagiarism. Machiavellianism rated the third highest cause of plagiarism followed by utilitarianism, self-interest and cultural relativism. The authors of the article makes recommendations to create better awareness among students about the exact meaning of plagiarism and the negative consequences of submitting plagiarised work to the institution along with the consequences of getting caught of indulging in an act of plagiarism. 

Words: 250

Critical Analysis of the research article

Aim of the study

The analysis presented by the authors of the paper claims that plagiarism is increasing because of the easy and quick availability of information from the Internet. This argument is justified by the previous academic studies as available from literature review confirming the easy accessibility and affordability of information available from the Internet.

However, the present paper was published long back in the year 2006 and since the advancements in technology have made professors more ‘tech-savvy’ (Starovoytova and Namango, 2016). Consequently, the argument that transgression may result in ‘irresistible challenge’ for students may not sustain with the technical advancements introduced in educational institutions. 

After the detailed historical analysis of the plagiarism development, the authors of the present article conclude that plagiarism in modern time is considered as “morally reprehensible”. This approach, is analysed in relation to the concept of  ‘Morality of Ethics’ as provided by Klein that helps in explaining that the authors failed to compare the differences between the moral and ethical approach to students from that of general contemporary perception about plagiarism (Klein, 2011 and Starovoytova et al., 2016). Klein provides a research study where it is claimed that there lies an ambiguity about the perception of plagiarism among learners. Here, an example can be quoted in the form of collaboration among peers and having knowledge about the extent to which the collaboration is considered inappropriate (Weiss and Bader, 2003; Bratton and Strittmatter, 2014). There can be several different reasons that students may not report calling for the need of analysing the perception about plagiarism in the context of universities or institutions.  

Therefore, it can be argued that the research work fails to consider the degree of ethical issues that may result in plagiarism and prove to be problematic as they are non-traditional while not adjusting with the nature of existing and commonly used systems of categorization (Weistein and Dobkin, 2012 and Underwood, 2003). Instead, the research article seeks to apply the theories of ethics as taken from different ethical contexts and designing a framework that is based on ideas of students to defend their act of plagiarism. 

The research methodology in the article

The research articles apply content analysis as the methodology to conduct the study and review files of students charged with plagiarism available from a large US West Coast university. The article recognizes the fact that students may disguise the real reasons of indulging in the act of plagiarism, but they expose the logic of defending their act of plagiarism that can prove to be useful for the faculty in avoiding the future act of plagiarism among students. The issues have been considered in the context of (Kaptein and Schwartz, 2008) where a majority of empirical inquiry of issues associated with applied ethics of business comprise of questions that can be ‘sensitive, embarrassing threatening or incriminating’ (Dalton and Metzger, 2002, p.208).

Additionally, several researchers explained that people have the tendency to deny traits that are socially undesirable and admit to that is accepted in the society (Clegg, 2007; Gillespie, 2003 and McCabe and Trevino, 2013). This may be a key reason that may impair the results of empirical studies that are based on questionnaires where respondents are asked to provide reasoning of their ownbehaviour or attitudes (Randall and Fernandes, 2001 and Ryan et al., 2013).


The research article provides some basic recommendations on the basis of results obtained from the content analysis. These recommendations are providedin relation to each and every ethical philosophy to address the associated issues. From the critical analysis of this methodology, it is clear that that one could critique the assumptions made about the recommendations for each ethical theory  (Graniz and Loewy, 2012) and the expected impact on reducing plagiarism in academic institutions. Furthermore, after the analysis it is quite clear that academic institutions hold a poor public perception about plagiarism that will make it difficult to implement any suggested changes in a strict manner. Here, it is suggested that a non-confrontational and stigmatizing context is considered to critique the reasons provided by students. This information can prove to be useful to understand a particular aspect of plagiarism that is ethical in nature helping to define efficient and effective corrective steps (Yang, 2012 and Peirce and Allshouse, 2010). An open environment where students are not bound to report in a socially acceptable manner will prove to be effective in identifying actual reasons of indulging the wrongful act of plagiarism. 

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