2. Advice to Students

2. Advice to Students

Students need to be made aware of what constitutes plagiarism and the importance of good academic practice from the moment they arrive at University. Students need to know what the expectations are, both generally and specifically in their subject area, and also that they might have to alter their study habits from those they learned at school or at university in another country (1).

2.1 Student Handbooks

Normally, all student handbooks should contain the University Statement on Plagiarism which should be pointed out and reinforced by explanation and discussion during inductions (2). Schools can supplement the University Statement to take account of subject-specific issues and student handbooks should include information on where to go for further clarification and guidance.

In addition to the Statement on Plagiarism, Schools should provide examples of good academic practice. It is left to Schools to decide what these should be because the instructions for different subject areas are likely to require tailoring to different styles of working and assessment.

Students who take subjects in different Schools and Colleges should be made aware that examples of what constitutes plagiarism might vary across disciplines.

Subject-specific examples should be provided of:

  • Paraphrasing, quoting and summarizing

Purdue University Online Writing Lab provides several good articles on plagiarism including "Quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing" and "Paraphrase: write it in your own words" which are available from here. However, Schools are encouraged to provide their own specific examples.

  • Citation of sources

Bournemouth University Library has produced a fairly exhaustive list of examples, using the Harvard System, of how to reference most conceivable types of published, unpublished and electronic sources. To access this resource click here

Particular attention should be drawn to the citation of electronic sources through examples and regular reminders. The Senate Assessors for Student Conduct continue to find that students suspected of plagiarism of web-based sources claim to have been unaware of the need to cite web-based sources.

  • Exceptions

Certain types of information are regarded as common knowledge, such as historical dates or chemical formulae and do not require to be referenced. Each School should make clear in their handbook what would be acceptable in their own subject area.

For example ‘the thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone’ would not require a reference in anatomy. In divinity, however, it might require a reference to Ezekiel and in music to the composer or to a particular recording.

2.2 When to tell students

Many students seem to remember hearing something about plagiarism during induction sessions in their first year but have no recollection of what they were actually told. Inductions should promote knowledge and understanding of plagiarism to students as effectively as possible though note that some students may arrive late and miss induction, so further sessions should be available. Students must register the importance that information about plagiarism will have throughout their future academic career and to convey this information effectively, it is likely that it will have to be repeated at regular intervals and be reinforced by instruction, discussion and practice, e.g. two or three weeks prior to submission of first assignments. There is also an online resource known as the Indiana Tool which provides information and a test to help students develop their understanding of plagiarism.

Inductions should provide a clear and full explanation of plagiarism including the following points:

  • Direct quotation is not the only form of plagiarism. Paraphrasing or summarising of an unacknowledged source is also regarded as plagiarism as is over dependence on a single source. Acknowledgement must be made throughout the piece of work with quotation marks and page numbers as well as in the bibliography.
  • Any use of non-original work, thoughts or ideas is plagiarism unless it is properly acknowledged. The format of the source is irrelevant and the rules apply equally to published books, electronic sources, correspondence or other student’s work. It also applies to a writer’s own earlier work.
  • No piece of work is exempt (unless specific instructions are given) and plagiarism is to be avoided in all types of work whether assessed or not. This includes seminar papers, lab reports, oral presentations, music composition, etc, and should be extended to notes in addition to essays.
  • The consequence of plagiarism being discovered in the work of a student is action under the Code of Student Conduct. The punishment is normally a reduction of marks, including reduction to grade H with no resubmission opportunity. This may have a serious effect on the student’s progression and academic career.

The discussion of what not to do should be complemented, either before or after, by clear and positive advice on avoiding plagiarism through good practice, e.g. when reading and note taking and when researching a piece of work for an assessment.

2.3 Continuing advice and training in Study Skills

Many students have concerns about their essay writing skills and their ability to avoid plagiarism. They are likely to welcome any extra tuition that can be offered, provided that it is done in a way that does not stigmatise any group or individual. Schools need to give some attention to ensuring that appropriate study skills are being taught. Schools should liaise with the relevant College Effective Learning Adviser to ensure that staff are aware of what is on offer, to explore further possibilities and to avoid duplication with School activities.

Additional classes, surgeries or drop-in clinics with flexible times are possible ways to offer extra assistance. However, where the additional tuition or advice is voluntary and requires action on the part of the student, the availability of such support must be forcefully marketed, as the students who need it most are the least likely to seek it out. Alternatively, an integrated approach can be taken where small scale formative writing tasks are incorporated into the day to day curriculum.

When teaching study skills, tutors should highlight and explain cultural differences. Cultural differences may arise from a student's, or their family's, country of origin, but could also be a result of differences in educational culture arising from attitudes and practices learned at school. Some students may have learned different skills and attitudes and may need direction in adopting new ones. Students should be encouraged to seek advice at any point of their studies when they are not sure about plagiarism and to be confident about approaching their Course Leader, Adviser of Studies or the Effective Learning Advisers for help.

2.4 Urkund Software

The Urkund software is available for use in the University and Schools can use it for some or all student assignments. It provides a valuable tool for students in helping them understand whether their own work is free from plagiarism. However, it should not be used in isolation, and should always be incorporated into a wider programme of information and advice on appropriate referencing for the subject area concerned.

  Interviews with students suspected of plagiarism have revealed that at school level pupils are not always required to acknowledge sources when copying work. Staff are therefore asked to take every opportunity to raise awareness with schools and parent groups about plagiarism and what constitutes good academic practice.

2 Both the QAA and Human Rights Legislation consider that providing such information in written form is insufficient.