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.
- What is plagiarism?
- What if I am accused of plagiarism?
- Personal statement
- What happens at the meeting?
- What questions will I be asked?
- What will happen to me?
- Can i appeal the decision?
- How can the SRC help?
- What other resources are there?
What is plagiarism?
The University’s Plagiarism Statement 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:
- Self-plagiarism. This is when you submit 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 you can’t get credit twice for ‘recycled’ work.
- Submitting work written by someone else, but passing this off as your own work.
- Submitting work that is based on shared study notes. You can work with others as you prepare for assessments, but make sure that your answers are fully written in your own words so that they are distinctive from the others in your study group.
- Submitting work where you change a few words in sentences and paragraphs, but the structure and logic is the same as the source you have used. This applies to computing code as well.
- Submitting work purchased from essay-writing services. Students are encouraged to report the use of any commercial essay-writing services to the University's Student Conduct Team. Students should be extra vigilant when asking for assistance from anyone other than a member of University staff.
- Using artificial intelligence or websites such as Chat GPT to generate work that you submit.
- Submitting exam or essay questions to online solution websites which provide you with content you then submit as your own work. You should also avoid submitting exam or essay questions to these sites, even if you have already submitted your paper to the University, as the Univeristy can consider this to be collusion which is a breach of the Code of Student Conduct.
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 academic writing, citations and referencing from the Student Learning & Development team at the University. When considering a case of academic misconduct your School or the Senate Assessors will not take whether you intended to plagiarism into account, only whether or not the academic misconduct has taken place or not.
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.
The University's Code of Student Conduct outlines all the formal procedures that apply for allegations of misconduct.
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 penalty.
If investigated by the Senate Assessors,you will be sent an email with a link to an online folder which will contain a copy of your work, plus usually a Turnitin report, copies of sources in question that have been marked up by the School that teaches the course and a referral document from your School outlining the allegation. The Student Conduct Team will also ask you to provide a written statement by a specific date and will confirm any online meeting arrangements.
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 of your situation. This statement is usually a word document and we recommend that you include the following:
- An explanation of how you studied for, researched and wrote 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 avoiding plagiarism, using Turnitin and citation/referencing skills , and how you interpreted this advice
- Assistance you have sought (for example from the Student Learning Development team at the University) since you became aware of the accusation
- As you see it, the mistakes you have made, as well as the lessons you have learned about research techniques, writing critically and how to reference correctly in your work.
- 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, difficult personal circumstances, accommodation problems around the time of the submission.
- Whether you were aware of and used any of the support services in the University such as your Adviser of Studies, a Student Support Officer, your Programme Leader, the Good Cause procedure, Counselling and Psychological Services or the Students’ Representative Council (SRC),
Your statement should be factual, giving dates and details of the above points, and should not simply be an emotional or apologetic explanation. Nor should it go into detail about why you included certain arguments or approaches to the topic. 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 Student Conduct Team (depending on where your case has been referred) no later than two days before your meeting.
What happens at the meeting?
If your meeting is with the School, this will usually be 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 penalty will be applied and what this will be.
If you are invited to an interview with the Senate Assessors, this will take place online through Zoom. You will be sent a link to join the online meeting, which will be with two Senate Assessors for Student Conduct. There will be another member of staff from the Student Conduct Team taking notes. On occasion, there may be a specialist member of academic staff present if the allegation of academic misconduct is more complex (for example, involving computer coding). The Senate Assessors will have familiarised themselves with the academic misconduct referral, the range of source material that has been marked up and your work. The Senate Assessors review the same documents that you get access to, when you are invited to attend an interview and/or submit a statement.
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 placed in a Zoom waiting room while a decision is made. On return, you will be made aware of the decision and any penalty being applied. If you disagree with the outcome you may be able to challenge this by appealing on specific grounds. (You cannot change the decision 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 being referred for academic misconduct. 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 online meeting on the date and time you have been given, it is not usually possible for it to be rearranged, except in very exceptional circumstances. You should submit your personal statement and your case will be dealt with by the Senate Assessors on that basis.
Depending on the waiting times for interviews, the Student Conduct Team may ask if you want to submit a statement to the Senate Assessors and have your case considered without an interview. All communication is to your University email account.
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?
The key question in referrals for academic misconduct is whether there is enough original work for the assessment to be marked. Sanctions available to your School or to the Senate Assessors 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 Student Academic Conduct Committee, which can decide upon more severe penalties.
Can I appeal the decision?
Once you have been told the outcome of the conduct meeting you wil have an opportunity to appeal against this decision. You have 10 working days from the date of the letter you are sent confirming the full outcome to submit your appeal.
The 3 grounds you can appeal on are:-
- You have new evidence that you were unable, for valid reasons, to provide at the meeting and this information could have made a difference to the decision that was reached
- Procedures were not followed correctly
- The outcome was clearly unreasonable
If you are considering an appeal, we would always suggest that you speak to a member of staff in the Advice Centre to talk this through. These discussions allow us to be upfront with you on the realistic chance of your appeal being successful, support you in articulating your key arguments and to suggest any supporting documents you might want to include.
How can the SRC help?
The SRC Advice Centre can assist you in a number of ways, such as:
- Helping you understand the allegation made against you
- Giving you guidance on writing a personal statement prior to an interview
- 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?
The Student Learning Development service — 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 one to one meeting with a member of their team to discuss academic practice in more depth. If you have been referred for plagiarism or other academic misconduct and are unsure about what good academic practice looks like, it is highly recommended that you try to obtain an appointment with SLD 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 the sources that you use. Make sure you read this information, and seek assistance from staff in the School 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.