Objective: Following a survey of the literature, a systematic review was carried out with the aim of answering the following questions: 1) What is 'acceptable plagiarism'?; 2) Who carries out plagiarism?; 3) What factors could encourage plagiarism?; 4) How can plagiarism be managed?
Data source and selection: Following PRISMA guidelines, data were gathered by searching Scopus, PubMed and Web of Science. After removal of duplicates, 345 titles were identified. Then, having satisfied a priori eligibility criteria, 29 papers were interrogated. The quality of relevant papers (n = 23) was assessed using the Joanna Briggs Critical Appraisal Tool.
Data extraction: There was no clear threshold as to what is 'acceptable plagiarism'. Despite this lack of clarity, it is argued consistently that males, and those who wrote in a language that is not their mother tongue, were more likely to plagiarise.
Conclusion: Plagiarism is all but inescapable due to various reasons: 1) there is no agreed threshold as to what is 'acceptable plagiarism'; 2) the internet; 3) institutional; and 4) societal expectations. Plagiarism could be mitigated in the student domain by grammar support and, for example, non-written submissions such as presenting work by video. Academic fraud is fundamentally undermined by valuing original and creative scholarship and sound ethical principles.