The SRC can give you advice if you have been accused of plagiarism, which is the offence of passing off someone else’s work as your own. Plagiarism is something the University considers a very serious breach of discipline, and it is important that you know what it is and what might happen if you are accused of it.
What is plagiarism?
The University’s Plagiarism Statement (see section 32 of ‘Fees and General Information’ in the University Regulations) defines plagiarism as follows:
“Work may be considered to be plagiarised if it consists of:
- a direct quotation;
- a close paraphrase;
- an unacknowledged summary of a source;
- direct copying or transcription.
With regard to essays, reports and dissertations, the rule is: if information or ideas are obtained from any source, that source must be acknowledged according to the appropriate convention in that discipline; and any direct quotation must be placed in quotation marks and the source cited immediately.”
Plagiarism can also mean:
- Submitting the same work, or a substantial part of the same work more than once for the purpose of assessment. This is the case even if this was all your own work initially as it could be deriving double credit for a single effort.
- Submitting work written by someone else, but passing this off as your own work.
- Submitting work purchased from essay-writing services. Students are encouraged to report the use of any commercial essay-writing services to the Senate Office. Students should be extra vigilant when asking for assistance from anyone other than a member of University staff.
So please be careful when asking a proof-reader to check your work, or asking someone else to edit your work, whether or not they are paid to do so. Students can seek assistance on essay writing from the Learning Enhancement & Academic Development Service (LEADS).
What if I am accused of plagiarism?
If you are accused of plagiarism in an essay, dissertation, exam or other piece of work, your case will be investigated by either your School or the Senate Assessors for Student Conduct. The severity of the plagiarism and/or your level of study is usually the basis for who carries out the investigation.
If the investigation is carried out by your School, you will usually be asked to attend a meeting to discuss this in more detail, and your School will be responsible for applying any punishment.
If investigated by the Senate Assessors, a more formal process will commence. You will be sent an email which will have attached a copy of your work, plus usually an Urkund or Turnitin report, copies of sources in question and a referral document from your School outlining the allegation. Senate Office will also provide you with the date of a proposed meeting with the Senate Assessors, that you will need to attend.
Before any meeting with your School or Senate Assessors, you may wish to consider writing a personal statement that will help those conducting the meeting to understand the facts and decide whether you deliberately cheated or made an honest mistake. This statement is usually a word document including:
- An explanation of how you studied and researched the piece of work
- What your understanding of plagiarism has been, and what this understanding was based upon (for example, academic practice learned from another country’s education system)
- What guidance you received from your School on plagiarism and research methods, and how you interpreted this advice
- Assistance you have sought (for example from LEADS) since you became aware of the accusation
- As you see it, the mistakes you have made and lessons you have learned about research techniques and referencing
- What any potential punishment could mean for you. For example, if you are a Masters student, and the work makes up 75% or 100% of your course credits, a severe punishment may mean you are unable to reach the threshold to gain your degree.
- Any other mitigating factors that you feel may have contributed to the situation e.g. ill-health
Your statement should be factual, giving dates and details of the above points, and should not simply be an emotional or apologetic discourse. It should also be brief — we would generally recommend no more than two sides of A4. You should submit it to your School office or the Senate Office (depending on where your case has been referred) no later than the day before your meeting.
What happens at the meeting?
If your meeting is with the School, this will typically be less formal, usually with one academic member of staff asking you a series of questions to understand better what has actually gone wrong and why. Another member of staff may also be there to take notes. Once it becomes clear what has happened, you will be advised whether any punishment will take place and what this will be.
If your meeting is with the Senate, there is a more formal structure in place. You will meet with two Senate Assessors for Student Conduct, with another member of staff taking notes. On occasion, there may be a specialist member of academic staff present if the accusation of plagiarism is more complex (for example, involving computer coding). The Senate Assessors will have familiarised themselves with the accusation, range of source material and your work.
Everyone will be introduced and you will then be asked to outline what has happened and why. You may be asked a series of questions to gather more information about the work and explore any mitigating circumstances that you may have presented within your statement. You will then be asked to leave the room for a short period while a decision is made. On return, you will be made aware of the decision and any punishment being applied. If you are not happy with the outcome you may be able to challenge this later (not at this meeting).
It is crucial that within this meeting and your personal statement, you highlight all relevant factors that you believe contributed towards your work having plagiarised content. If you do not present all the relevant information at this stage, it is highly unlikely that you will get another chance to do so. If, for example, you appeal the outcome, you will only be able to present new information if you have a clear and valid reason as to why you could not have presented this information at your meeting.
If you are not able to attend the meeting on the date and time you have been given you can ask for this to be rearranged. If you are out of the country and unable to attend any meetings, you can submit your personal statement and your case will be dealt with in the absence of a meeting.
What questions will I be asked?
We can’t predict exactly what you will be asked at a plagiarism hearing, but we have compiled a non-exhaustive list of examples to give you an idea of the areas that are likely to be covered.
What will happen to me?
Sanctions available to the University could range from:-
- in minor cases, a reprimand, reduction in marks or an opportunity to resubmit a piece of work. The grade for any re-submitted work is usually capped at the pass mark.
- in more serious cases, having a grade of ‘H’ (zero) applied to the work with no chance to resubmit.
- in severe cases, credits can be refused for an entire course or you may be referred to the Senate Conduct Committee, who have the power to administer harsher penalties.
How can the SRC help?
The SRC Advice Centre can assist you in a number of ways, such as:
- Helping you understand the accusation made against you
- Giving you guidance on writing a personal statement prior to a hearing
- Accompanying you to, and supporting you at, any meeting with the School or Senate Assessors for Student Conduct
- Explaining the Plagiarism Statement and pointing you towards other sources of help
- Advising and assisting you with an appeal, if appropriate.
If you need any help, just telephone, email or pop in during our opening hours.
What other resources are there?
LEADS — a team within the University who provide workshops and guidance to students on a variety of learning issues, such as study techniques or research methods. They can help you better understand the University’s definition of plagiarism and how it might apply to any of your work. Via their website you are able to book an appointment to have a face to face meeting with a member of their team to discuss academic practice in more depth. For students who are being accused of plagiarism and have a poor understanding of academic practice, it is highly recommended that you try to obtain an appointment with LEADS to talk this through
Your School — should issue guidance in your course handbook, and often in class, about the risks of plagiarism and how to properly reference. Make sure you read this information, and seek assistance from staff in the department or your Adviser of Studies if you are unclear about it.
For international students in the College of Social Sciences, the College has International Student Learning Officers for both undergraduate and postgraduate students. These staff run classes and offer advice and support, including how to avoid plagiarism, and how to write critically and use source materials effectively.
- University Plagiarism Statement
- Learning Enhancement & Academic Development Service (LEADS)
- College of Social Sciences International Student Learning Officers
- University Code of Student Conduct