The University takes plagiarism very seriously, and any student whose work shows evidence of plagiarism is likely to be subject to disciplinary action.
On this page, you will find information about plagiarism and the disciplinary process for students accused of plagiarism; as well as links to places where you can get further assistance with developing your writing and referencing skills in order to avoid plagiarising in your assessments.
What is plagiarism?
The University’s Student Guide to Academic Practice and Plagiarism defines plagiarism as:
“The unacknowledged use of another person’s work or ideas, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and is a form of intellectual theft.”
Plagiarism can take several forms, and the Guide sets out several examples, including:
- Not properly indicating direct quotations;
- Unauthorised group work;
- Not citing the source of paraphrased ideas, or poor paraphrasing;
- Presenting an idea as if it is one’s own rather than from a source;
- Submitting work that has previously been handed in for a different assessment or award (this is sometimes called ‘auto-plagiarism’ – yes, you can plagiarise yourself!).
What happens in plagiarism cases?
Plagiarism is usually detected during marking of an assessment. The process is the same whether the piece of work involved is an essay, presentation, exam script or other assignment.
Cases of plagiarism are referred to the Head of Department. In less serious cases (e.g. where this is the student’s first offence, or where the student has just started their course) the Head of Department can deal with the issue, and can impose a mark reduction on the piece of work, up to and including giving a zero mark.
If the plagiarism is more serious (e.g. a repeat offence, the student is at a later stage of their course, or the plagiarism is very extensive), then the Head of Department will refer it to the Senate Discipline Committee. The Committee have a broader range of sanctions available to them, including reducing marks, reprimanding the student, or imposing a cap on the degree classification that can be awarded.
In either case, the student is almost always called to a meeting to discuss the accusation and give an explanation of why the plagiarism occurred.
At the meeting
Whether you have to meet with your Department, or are called to the Senate Disciplinary Committee, it is a good idea to think about what you want to say beforehand.
It can be helpful to put together a personal statement, explaining what has happened. You may want to cover, for example:
- What you understand plagiarism to be, and what this has been based on (e.g. University information, previous academic experience)
- Any mitigating circumstances for the plagiarism;
- How you went about writing the assignment or preparing for the exam;
- What you now think you may have done badly that led to the plagiarism;
- Any steps you have taken, or are planning to take to learn more about plagiarism, or improve your academic practice in future.
The statement should be as factual as possible, giving specific information about any relevant circumstances. It does not need to be very long – one or two sides of A4 will be enough in most cases.
The statement should be submitted to the Head of Department or Discipline Committee at least the day before the meeting, if possible, to give them chance to read it.
How ASK can help
If you are worried about, or have been accused of plagiarism, ASK can:
- Explain the University policy on academic practice;
- Give you guidance on writing your personal statement;
- Represent you at your meeting with the Department or Discipline Committee.
If you have any concerns about plagiarism, you can contact ASK, or come in to see an adviser during our opening hours.
If you are unsure about referencing or other academic practice, and would like further information, the following people may be able to help:
- Your Departmental Adviser should be able to give you advice and information about the referencing and citation conventions for your subject;
CAPLE (the Centre for Academic Practice and Learning Enhancement) has a number of advisers who can discuss academic writing with you. They also have a factsheet on avoiding plagiarism that can be found here: http://www.strath.ac.uk/caple/studentdevelopment/forundergraduates/