Many studies show that students self-report to having bought, downloaded and ghostwritten essays, as well as to failing to attribute quoted material and other similar actions. These actions are all classified as plagiarism, and based on this classification these students are positioned as cheaters. This study shows that there is reason to critically scrutinize such positioning. Using positioning theory, drawing on data from disciplinary inquiries, we show that such actions may be constituted as acts of complaining, justifying, blaming and the like. Students justify these actions using storylines about ambiguous instructions, failing technology and difficulties distinguishing between plagiarism and autonomous authorship. We find that there are four positions such students try to make available for themselves as they attempt to reposition themselves, those of victim, learner, professional and repentant offender. Being suspected of cheating or plagiarism is a malignant position to be in; however, while students may attempt to reposition themselves in less malignant positions, such as that of victim, such attempts generally fail to lead to exoneration.
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