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Academic Dishonesty & Plagiarism

 

Academic Dishonesty

Academic Dishonesty includes plagiarism; recycling content from your previous assignments; making up or falsifying research data; getting someone else to complete or contribute to an assessment; bringing unauthorised calculators, written notes or other banned items into an exam; and inappropriate use of electronic devices to access information during an exam.

At its most severe level, Academic Dishonesty can constitute Misconduct. Misconduct investigations can lead to heavy penalties that include suspension or exclusion from your degree. If you receive an allegation of Misconduct, you should contact SUPRA immediately, before you respond to the University.

 

Plagiarism

The most common types of Plagiarism are: copying another author’s work and presenting it as your own; failing to reference another author’s work properly; and paraphrasing (poorly) another author’s text and then failing to properly reference that work. Sometimes a student may be careless, or not understand correct referencing, but unfortunately, the University may still decide that this constitutes Plagiarism.

 

Mandatory education

Commencing students are expected to successfully complete a mandatory online module Academic Honesty in Education (AHEM) in their first semester. The University expects students to complete all assessments with integrity and have a good understanding of what constitutes academic dishonesty and avoid it. Any finding of Plagiarism is considered unacceptable, whether it was unintentional or intentional. If you have previously been found to have engaged in Academic Dishonesty, a second finding will usually mean a more severe penalty. SUPRA recommends all students complete AHEM as soon as possible.

 

How is Plagiarism detected?

The University detects alleged Plagiarism in two ways: through the marker, who can often spot unattributed text; and through similarity detection software, such as Turnitin.

Turnitin is text-matching software that compares similarities between an assessment and millions of other assessments, academic journal articles, web pages and other texts. Turnitin generates “compatibility reports” that can trigger an allegation or be used as evidence of Plagiarism.

 

What is the process?

Markers/examiners are required to report suspected Plagiarism to the relevant Educational Integrity Co-ordinator (EIC) in their Faculty.

Preliminary view
The EIC may decide that the conduct is not Plagiarism, in which case you will be notified that there was No Impropriety and your work will be assessed on its merits without any academic penalty.

The EIC may decide that the conduct might constitute Plagiarism or Academic Dishonesty, but that it most likely occurred due to poor skills in referencing. In this case, you will usually receive a finding of Plagiarism, and could be advised to compete an additional workshop on referencing or paraphrasing.

If the EIC decides that the conduct might be Plagiarism or Academic Dishonesty, and they believe that it was not due to poor skills, then the EIC will determine whether the matter will be dealt with by your Faculty; referred to the Registrar (coursework); or referred to the Director of Research Integrity (research). More serious forms of Plagiarism or Academic Dishonesty will be referred to the Registrar.

Notification letter
If the EIC refers the matter to the Faculty, you will be notified of the allegation and invited to either attend an interview, or to submit a written response to the allegation.

 

How to respond

Try to stay calm. The notice and the meeting must comply with the requirements of procedural fairness which includes:

  • The right to be told the specific allegation in sufficient detail
  • The right to a reasonable amount of time so that you can prepare your response, including time to seek advice, e.g. from SUPRA
  • The right to invite a support person to be with you in any meeting to discuss the allegation. This may be a friend or in some cases, a SUPRA advocacy officer.

 

Outcome

The EIC will decide whether the conduct is Plagiarism, Academic Dishonesty or potential Misconduct, based on your response and the evidence they have reviewed. They may also find that there was No Impropriety.

 

What are the penalties?

A determination of Plagiarism or Academic Dishonesty will usually result in penalties, including a mark of zero for the assessment; zero and Fail for the unit of study; or a deduction of marks from the assessment. The actual penalty will depend on the nature and extent of the Plagiarism or Academic Dishonesty, and on whether you have had a previous finding.

 

Academic Misconduct

If the EIC decides that the actions might constitute Academic Misconduct, Research Misconduct, or a code of conduct breach, they will refer the matter to either the Registrar (coursework) or the Director (research). You will receive a notification asking you to participate in a Misconduct investigation. A common form of Misconduct is engaging another person to write or contribute to your assessment, otherwise known as Contract Cheating. Helping another student by writing their assessment for them, or giving your assignment for them to copy and submit as their own work, is a form of Misconduct.

 

Contract Cheating

This form of Academic Misconduct is one that the University takes especially seriously. Contract Cheating has two main forms: where a student engages/uses a commercial service (even when they do not pay a fee), or where a friend, family member or fellow student contributes too much to another student’s work.

 

Commercial Contract Cheating services

Do not use commercial services that offer tutoring in a particular USYD assessment task; ghostwriting; plagiarism checking; or file sharing (e.g. of ‘study notes’). Avoid tutoring firms that are not approved by senior members of your Faculty; that advertise on WeChat; and that offer courses delivered in languages other than English. It is likely that these firms have copied or re-used the work of past students, which will lead to a high similarity index in the Turnitin compatibility report, when you use their material in your own submitted assessment. Tutoring firms which give students the answers to an assessment task do not actually provide an ethical learning experience.

Contract Cheating services can also have very poor data security, which means it can be easy to find out who is using them. Evidence also exists that such fraudulent commercial services have used students’ details inappropriately, posing a security risk to both the student and their university. Be very careful to not trust services that are only promoted by other students or student societies. SUPRA recommends that you avoid commercial services that are not approved by or affiliated with the University (e.g. by using University branding or venues.

Be careful also of sharing such documents as Unit of Study Outlines and lecture slides on platforms like Course Hero. The University could consider such documents as its intellectual property, therefore sharing these with external parties could lead to an allegation of Academic Dishonesty or Misconduct.

 

Friends and family members

Never ask a friend or family member to contribute to or complete your assessment for you. Never complete work for another student. Students who are friends might exchange ideas but if this results in similar wording and ideas in the submitted assessments, the students will receive allegations of Academic Dishonesty. Changing words or phrases is not enough to disguise collusion (i.e. illegitimate collaboration).

Read the University’s advice on Contract Cheating, Academic Dishonesty and Plagiarism here: https://sydney.edu.au/students/academic-dishonesty.html

 

Responding to an allegation of Plagiarism or Academic Dishonesty

  • Get advice early from SUPRA
    Wait until you have consulted a SUPRA advocacy officer for advice before attending a meeting with the EIC, or investigator. In some cases a SUPRA advocacy officer may attend as your support person.
  • Keep all the paperwork
    This includes relevant emails, letters, and other documents including early drafts of the assessment, as well as notes you may have taken of relevant conversations with University staff.
  • Request key documents
    The University must provide you with relevant and annotated assessment items, and, if applicable, the associated Turnitin compatibility report.
  • Cooperate, but do not volunteer too much information
    While you are obliged to be truthful and courteous in your dealings with the University, you are not obliged to disclose information that is not helpful to your own best interests.
  • Respect the process
    Once you receive an allegation of Plagiarism or Academic Dishonesty, a formal and confidential process has commenced, and you should not contact your teaching staff, or other students if the matter involves a group work assessment, or any another student involved in the allegation.
  • Remember, you can appeal
    You can appeal any decision about Plagiarism or Academic Dishonesty, or Misconduct. See the section on Academic Appeals for more.

 

Avoiding Plagiarism

Learn to reference according to the requirements of your Faculty, School, or Department.
Apart from completing the AHEM, read relevant style guides, course handbooks, and your unit outlines. Complete any training provided by your Faculty on how to reference properly. If in doubt, talk with your lecturer, Unit Coordinator, or support staff within the Faculty. 

Improve your skills in researching, note-taking, editing and time management.
Poor study habits can lead to referencing errors. A common mistake is, when researching published articles or texts a student writes down their own thoughts and ideas along with the work of other authors, without properly noting other authors’ work and referencing those authors. Later, the student might mistakenly copy another author’s text while thinking these are their original notes. Learn to reference everything fully as you research and you prepare your assessment. Keep your own thoughts and ideas separate. It is best to not rely only on Google or Baidu for PDFs, PowerPoint slides, or Excel spreadsheets; or YouTube videos for untested advice. The University’s Academic Liaison Librarians can help with ideas for scholarly search engines.

Do not leave researching, editing and referencing as last-minute tasks. Make sure you factor in sufficient time to properly check your references and assessment before submitting.

Undertake group work honestly and responsibly.
Working in groups creates significant challenges, especially when participants prepare different parts of the assessment item separately. Establish processes for cross-checking all references, and the quality of sources, for all group participants. The whole group will receive allegations of Academic Dishonesty even if only one member was directly responsible for the problematic section/s.

Learn to paraphrase properly.
Get expert help early in your course. Learning how to paraphrase appropriately takes time, patience, and practice. If you are unclear on how to paraphrase well, seek advice from your Unit Coordinator, Faculty Learning Advisers, the Learning Centre or the Academic Liaison Librarians. The Library has many online resources, including an online module on Academic Dishonesty, available in both English and Chinese: http://library.sydney.edu.au/help/online-training/plagiarism/.

Improve your academic English skills.
Do not rely on Google Translate to change drafts that you might first write in your home language. Using Google Translate too much can lead to a high similarity index in the Turnitin compatibility report, meaning you will face an allegation of Academic Dishonesty. If you need to improve your communication in English, seek assistance from the Learning Centre, or practice your conversational skills with the University’s Peer Learning Advisers.

 

Research Students

For research students, the University has integrity checks throughout your candidature to identify any possible breaches of academic honesty.

  • You are required to complete a first year integrity check that involves a submission of written work to be reviewed by your supervisor
  • Your thesis will also be passed through similarity detection software following submission, but prior to being passed onto the examiners
  • Drafts of your thesis can also be passed through similarity detection software
  • Postgraduate research students can face allegations of Plagiarism, Academic Dishonesty and Research Misconduct
  • Research Misconduct can involve falsifying research reports, results or data; failure to declare serious conflicts of interest; misleading ascription to authorship; Plagiarism; Academic Dishonesty; or deliberately conducting research without the appropriate ethics approval
  • All allegations of Research Misconduct will be referred to the Director of Research Integrity.

If you receive a notification of possible Plagiarism or Academic Dishonesty, contact SUPRA immediately for assistance.

See the University’s Research Code of Conduct 2013 for the responsibilities of all researchers, academic staff and students at the University. It defines Research Misconduct and breaches of the code related to Plagiarism.

See SUPRA’s HDR Guide for more information.

 

More assistance

The Learning Centre
usyd.edu.au/stuserv/learning_centre
Camperdown/Darlington Campus: (02) 9351 3853
Cumberland Campus: (02) 9351 9319

University Policy Register
sydney.edu.au/policy

See also:
Academic Honesty in Coursework Policy 2015 and Academic Honesty Procedures 2016
Research Code of Conduct 2013
University of Sydney (Student Discipline) Rule 2016
Educational Integrity Decision-making and Penalty Guidelines 2018

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