To avoid being accused of plagiarism, it’s important you learn to reference correctly, and that you adhere to the guidelines of good academic practice.
Referencing is indicating in your work where you have used material that did not originate with you. This might include factual information, data, images, opinion, direct quotation, or when you summarise or paraphrase the work of other people.
Many academic assignments measure your ability to understand, analyse and evaluate the work of others. Referencing is a crucial part of this as it informs the reader of the texts you have consulted during research, and makes it clear to the reader which work did not originate with you.
Failing to indicate that some of your assignment is a quote of or derived from other people’s work would be plagiarism.
The University has produced guides that will help you reference accurately when using the Harvard style: Referencing Guides.
This guide is the established norm for all subjects where Harvard referencing is used. On the minority of courses where other referencing styles are used, (e.g. Vancouver, Numeric, APA), you should carry on using those as instructed by your lecturers.
You may also find Study Skill’s Referencing section useful.
Plagiarism is a form of academic misconduct. If you are caught plagiarising, whether you did so knowingly or inadvertently, you will be invited to meetings, possibly subjected to disciplinary procedures and probably experience stress. In serious cases, there can be an impact on your academic record. Make sure you are aware of what good academic practice entails (see lower down this page).
What is Plagiarism?
This is the definition used by universities:
"Plagiarism is passing off someone else's work, whether intentionally or unintentionally, as your own for your own benefit."
Plagiarism means giving the impression that a piece of work originated with you when it didn’t, or at least some of it didn’t. If you present an idea, you are automatically giving the impression that it’s your work, unless you give due credit.
Colluding with another person on work that’s meant to be your own is also plagiarism. For example, you could be accused of collusion if you lend one of your assignments to a fellow student, especially if they put some of it into their own assignment. Even if they paraphrase your work, it is possible to detect collusion. Think very carefully before lending your work to others.
Another form of collusion occurs when you are working on a team project and have to write an essay about it afterwards. The essays are often required to be individual work, and even if you shared the workload of your project, handing in essays with shared sections can get you into trouble, unless your lecturer explicitly permits it. The essay is your chance to show that you actively took part in the team project and every part of the process. If you have any doubts or questions, talk to your lecturer. They should be able to advise you.
There are ‘e-tools’ to check whether a piece of work has been published or submitted for assessment already. Work can be checked online in moments, through the Turnitin tool. Visit the Turnitin Guide for more information.
Turnitin has integrated with Blackboard. Lecturers can post a piece of your writing, and in a short time, he/she (or you, if permitted by your lecturers) receives an originality report that highlights how much of your text matches something that’s already published somewhere, or which has been written by another student. In many cases, it’s not even necessary to use a special database to detect plagiarism. Some lecturers have unearthed copying by simply typing a sentence into Google. There are lots of ways to detect plagiarism, and lecturers use them regularly.
What happens if plagiarism or other academic misconduct is suspected?
Once a concern has been raised about a student’s work, and it is agreed that there is a case to look into, the student will be invited to a meeting with their faculty to discuss the issue. At the meeting, the student will meet with a panel, made up of two members of staff from their faculty. Both members of the panel will be independent from the student and their course. Also present at the meeting will be the member of staff who raised the concern about the student’s work.
The panel will ask the member of staff who raised the concern about the student’s work to present their case and explain why the case has been referred to the panel. The panel will then ask questions to the member of staff, if appropriate. The student will then present their case and the panel will ask questions of the student. Both the member of staff who raised the concern and the student may be given an opportunity to sum up if the panel feels that they require this.
The member of staff who raised the concern and the student will then be asked to leave the room whilst the panel have a private discussion about whether they feel that academic misconduct has taken place and if applicable which penalty they think would be appropriate. The member of staff who raised the concern and the student will then both be asked to return to the meeting. The student will then be informed of the panel’s decision as to whether academic misconduct took place. There are three potential outcomes:
In most cases, the outcome will be given to the student at the end of the meeting.
If a student’s case is referred to the Academic Misconduct Panel for consideration the panel hearing the case will be made up of a chair, a member of staff from another faculty and the Students’ Union President (or nominee). The meeting will be run in the same way as the faculty meeting, however, the outcome will be provided to the student in writing up to 5 working days after the meeting.
Penalties range from a written warning or rewriting the piece of work to failure and discontinuation of the whole course. Potentially as part of the penalty, a student may be referred to Student Development and Study Skills Service for a referencing session. This is in the main a means of support to help students with their studies. However, it is important that students do attend the session because if they do not their case can be referred back to the chair of the panel and a higher penalty could be imposed.
Students can contact the Students’ Union for representation and support during this process.
A key element of academic integrity is understanding good academic practice in written work and creative practice. Understanding how to use the work of other scholars, including your peers, to develop your own insights into a subject is an important professional skill.
You will be expected to follow professional academic conventions. Within the international academic community it is never acceptable to use the words of others or their creative output (whether published or unpublished, including material from the internet) without explicit acknowledgement. To do so would not be seen as a mark of respect but rather as plagiarism.