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Faculty Board Guidance on Plagiarism

The following guidance has been issued by the Faculty Board of Biology:

As agreed by the General Board: "Plagiarism is defined as submitting as one’s own work, irrespective of intent to deceive, that which derives in part or in its entirety from the work of others without due acknowledgement; or, in the case of self-plagiarism, unless explicitly permitted by regulation, submitting one’s own work that has already been submitted for assessment to satisfy the requirements of any other academic qualification, or submitted for publication without due acknowledgement. It is both poor scholarship and a breach of academic integrity."

Such use of unfair means will not be tolerated by the University; if detected, the penalty may be severe and may lead to disciplinary proceedings being taken against you.

1. The scope of plagiarism
Plagiarism is defined as submitting as one's own work, irrespective of intent to deceive, that which derives in part or in its entirety from the work of others without due acknowledgement.

Examples of plagiarism include copying (using another person’s language and/or ideas as if they are a candidate’s own), by:

  • quoting verbatim another person’s work without due acknowledgement of the source;
  • paraphrasing another person’s work by changing some of the words, or the order of the words, without due acknowledgement of the source;
  • using ideas taken from someone else without reference to the originator;
  • cutting and pasting from the Internet to make a pastiche of online sources;
  • submitting someone else’s work as part of a candidate’s own without identifying clearly who did the work. For example, buying or commissioning work via professional agencies such as ‘essay banks’ or ‘paper mills’, or not attributing research contributed by others to a joint project.

Plagiarism might also arise from colluding with another person, including another candidate, other than as permitted for joint project work (i.e. where collaboration is concealed or has been forbidden). A candidate should include a general acknowledgement where he or she has received substantial help, for example with the language and style of a piece of written work.
Plagiarism can occur in respect to all types of sources and media:

  • text, illustrations, musical quotations, mathematical derivations, computer code, etc;
  • material downloaded from websites or drawn from manuscripts or other media;
  • published and unpublished material, including lecture handouts and other students’ work.

Acceptable means of acknowledging the work of others (by referencing, in footnotes, or otherwise) vary according to the subject matter and mode of assessment. Faculties or Departments should issue written guidance on the relevant scholarly conventions for submitted work, and also make it clear to candidates what level of acknowledgement might be expected in written examinations. Candidates are required to familiarize themselves with this guidance, to follow it in all work submitted for assessment, and may be required to sign a declaration to that effect. If a candidate has any outstanding queries, clarification should be sought from her or his Director of Studies, Course Director or Supervisor as appropriate.

Self-plagiarism is defined as submitting one's own work, that has already been submitted for assessment, to satisfy the requirements of any other academic qualification or submitted for publication without due acknowledgement.

Examples of self-plagiarism include:

  • writing an essay twice or more for a single set of exams;
  • writing the same essay, or a substantial part of an essay, twice in the same exam;
  • memorising substantial blocks of text and reproducing them more than once as the whole or as parts of an answer in an exam.

Failure to conform to the expected standards of scholarship (e.g. by not referencing sources) in examinations may affect the mark given to the candidate's work. In addition, suspected cases of the use of unfair means (of which plagiarism is one form) will be investigated and may be brought to one of the University's Courts. The Courts have wide powers to discipline those found guilty of using unfair means in an examination, including depriving such persons of membership of the University, and deprivation of a degree.

2. How to avoid plagiarism
The stylistic conventions for different subjects vary and you should consult your Course Organiser or project supervisor about the conventions pertaining in your particular subject area. Most courses will issue written guidance on the relevant scholarly conventions and you are expected to have read and to follow this advice. However, the main points that apply to submitted work (e.g. dissertations, project reports) are:

  • when presenting the views and work of others, include in the text an indication of the source of the material, e.g. 'as Sharpe (1993) has shown,' and give the full details of the work quoted in your bibliography;
  • if you quote text verbatim, place the sentence in inverted commas and give the appropriate reference, e.g. 'The elk is of necessity less graceful than the gazelle' (Thompson, 1942, p 46) and give the full details in your bibliography as above;
  • if you wish to set out the work of another at length so that you can produce a counter-argument, set the quoted text apart from your own text (eg by indenting a paragraph) and identify it by using inverted commas and adding a reference as above. NB long quotations may infringe copyright, which exists for the life of the author plus 70 years.
  • if you are copying text, keep a note of the author and the reference as you go along, with the copied text, so that you will not mistakenly think the material to be your own work when you come back to it in a few weeks' time;
  • if you reproduce an illustration or include someone else's data in a graph include the reference to the original work in the legend, eg (figure redrawn from Webb, 1976) or (triangles = data from Webb, 1976);
  • if you wish to collaborate with another person on your project, you should check with the Course Organiser to see whether this might be allowed and then seek their permission;
  • if you have been authorised to work together with another candidate or other researchers, you must acknowledge their contribution fully in your introductory section. If there is likely to be any doubt as to who contributed which parts of the work, you should make this clear in the text wherever necessary, e.g. 'I am grateful to A. Smith for analysing the sodium content of these samples';
  • be especially careful if cutting and pasting work from electronic media; do not fail to attribute the work to its source. If authorship of the electronic source is not given, ask yourself whether it is worth copying;
  • don't memorise substantial blocks of text in lieu of essay answers;
  • tailor your answer to the question being asked.

Please note that during written answers for unseen examination papers, you will not be penalised for failures to reference information in this manner.

3. The Golden Rule:

The examiners must be in no doubt as to which parts of your work are your own original work and which are the rightful property of someone else.

For the University-wide statement on plagiarism, and further information on the topic, please click here