A detection process to create awareness of source-code plagiarism among students using it to pass introductory programming


  • Imelda Smit North-West University
  • Eduan Naudé North-West University
  • Busisiwe Zulu North-West University




introductory programming, source-code plagiarism, source-code plagiarism detection tool, source-code plagiarism awareness, source-code plagiarism categories


The COVID-19 pandemic restrained the academic environment and changed the rules of the educational game; contact classes were restricted, and online assessments had to be introduced. This situation opened an opportunity for some students to use source-code plagiarism to pass coding assessments in the Introduction to Programming subject module. The focus of this paper is on making sense of this environment to establish a process to ensure that students obtain the skills they need to build on in subsequent modules. This is necessary to reach the outcomes of a computing course. Four aspects were used in establishing this source-code plagiarism awareness process in focusing on one class of students. Qualitative data were gathered by firstly requesting the class to supply feedback on their understanding of source-code plagiarism, and secondly inviting students identified as guilty of Python source-code plagiarism to start a conversation with the lecturer, which was triangulated with quantitative data regarding the success of the latter group in terms of their pass rate. Although the Measure of Software Similarity tool was instrumental in establishing a source-code plagiarism detection process, it is cumbersome and time consuming. Hence fourthly, it was compared to other available tools to determine their suitability in comparison. A refined source-code plagiarism awareness process is the resultant finding of this paper. 

Author Biographies

Imelda Smit, North-West University

Imelda Smit is a senior lecturer who works in Computing at North-West University in South Africa. Current responsibilities include lecturing Python programming to first year students, coordinating honours research projects, management of the Computer Science and Information Technology honours programme, guiding honours, master’s and doctoral post-graduate research, as well as acting as subprogramme leader of the research unit of Data Science and Computing (Vanderbijlpark Campus). Postdoctoral research interests include Reflective Practice, the philosophy of Dooyeweerd, and using technology to teach technology. The management of source code plagiarism is linked to being the guardian of promoting the ethical use of code and text in the academic computing environment of the School of Computer Science and Information Systems. 

Eduan Naudé, North-West University

Eduan Naudé graduated from North-West University, South Africa with an undergraduate degree in Information Technology, the pursuit of an honour’s degree in Computer Science & Information Technology allowed furthering academic computing knowledge which included a research study to analyse different plagiarism detection techniques. This knowledge was viewed from the perspective of an introductory Python programming class. It formed part of a larger study on academic honesty and the difficulties associated with code plagiarism in the classroom environment. Currently he is working as a full-stack web developer based in Cape Town. 

Busisiwe Zulu, North-West University

Busisiwe Zulu is a data and analytics technical consultant, she incorporates the love for technology with
the love for art and creativity – to produce unique data analysis reports. This love for data and analytics
stem from a desire to showcase artistic inspiration with a career in technology. Through this work she can
combine storytelling with trends in data – by developing reports that are smart and convenient for clients.
By studying and learning the associated skills, she obtained an undergraduate degree in Information
Technology and an honours degree in Computer Science & Information Technology. The honours course
included a research project which focused on the impact of source code copying practices used by
students to pass an introductory programming course, on student progress.


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How to Cite

Smit, I., Naudé, E., & Zulu, B. (2024). A detection process to create awareness of source-code plagiarism among students using it to pass introductory programming. The Independent Journal of Teaching and Learning, 19(1), 79–92. https://doi.org/10.17159/ijtl.v19i1.18854