Academic malpractice

Plagiarism, Collusion, Fabrication and Falsification of Results

Academic malpractice includes plagiarism, collusion, fabrication and falsification of results and anything else intended by those committing it to achieve credit that they do not properly deserve.

As a student you are expected to co-operate in the learning process throughout your programme of study by completing assignments of various kinds that are the produce of your own study or research. For most students this does not present a problem, but occasionally, whether unwittingly or otherwise, a student may commit plagiarism or some other form of academic malpractice when carrying out an assignment.

If you commit any form of academic malpractice, teaching staff will not be able to assess your individual abilities objectively or accurately. Any short-term gain you might have hoped to achieve will be cancelled out by the loss of proper feedback you might have received and, in the long run, such behaviour is likely to damage your overall intellectual development, to say nothing of your self-esteem.

The University’s Plagiarism and Academic Malpractice - Guidance for Students is designed to help you understand what is considered academic malpractice and hence help you to avoid committing it. You should read it carefully, because academic malpractice is regarded as a serious offence and students found to have committed it will be penalised.

  • Acts of academic malpractice are not acceptable in any circumstances; and
  • Where such acts are shown to have occurred, an appropriate penalty will always be enforced.

No circumstances justify academic malpractice and, under University rules, a penalty must always be applied. This could be a penalty of mark reduction for the piece of work in question, but it could be worse: you could be awarded zero (with or without loss of credit), fail the whole unit, be demoted to a lower class of degree or be excluded from the programme.

Advice is available in AMBS on how to avoid academic malpractice in the context of your studies, but if you have any concerns you should either seek help from your Academic Advisor or consult the member of staff responsible for setting the assignment.

Finally, it is also unacceptable to represent your own work as being that of others – a sort of ‘reverse plagiarism’. For example, inventing data or references to lend spurious credibility to your own work is misrepresentation and will be penalised. You may be required to produced (or locate for inspection) a copy of any references or date you cite in work submitted for assessment.

Further guidance and academic malpractice

Referencing and Plagiarism

Make sure to cite your sources in the main text and that you list them all at the end in a reference section. This allows the marker to see which references you have used and how/where they have informed your analysis and argument.

The University Library’s My Learning Essentials is an award-winning skills programme which offers a number of online tutorials and workshops. For example, the ‘Writing’ resource will take you through the writing process from start to finish and help you to produce a well-structured and coherent piece of work that answers the question, evidences your own analysis and is easy for the reader to follow. The ‘Referencing’ resource explores the principles behind referencing, highlighting why it is good academic practice. It outlines when and how you need to reference and how to read a reference when following a source listed on a reading list or bibliography. The ‘Original Thinking Allowed: Avoiding Plagiarism’ resource explores some of the issues surrounding academic integrity, providing you with techniques to help you to avoid plagiarism when referring to the work of others and to add your own voice into your work.

In addition to the online tutorials workshops are also available:

  • Academic Writing – structuring for effective essays
  • Academic Writing – referencing in your writing
  • My Learning Essentials (The University of Manchester Library)

Failure to properly cite and reference material may raise questions about plagiarism, which the University and AMBS take very seriously. You should read and make sure you understand the contents of the University document Plagiarism and Other Forms of Academic Malpractice – Guidance for Students before you submit your coursework to make sure that you don’t commit academic malpractice unintentionally or otherwise. When you are ready to upload your work online you will be acknowledging a disclaimer at the point of submission that the work you are submitting is your own.

Avoiding Collusion and Group Work

Throughout your time at the University we encourage you to co-operate and to work with your colleagues. This might include:

  • Sharing textbooks on loan from the library
  • Helping a colleague to understand something covered in a lecture or workshop
  • Discussing questions set for a tutorial or workshop (this does not imply giving the answers to a friend)

In such cases students can help each other to understand the material for that course and to work effectively preparing for classes and non-assessed work. Such activities should be mutual so that each student gains from these informal interactions and one student does not free ride on the efforts of others.

However it is important to distinguish between such forms of co-operation and (a) formal requirements to produce group work and (b) collusion on work (usually assessed coursework) where collusion covers working with or for others in a way that is inappropriate to the requirements of the assignment.

(a) Formal Group Work

On some courses we require you formally to work with group members to complete an assignment, usually including the submission of a report produced jointly by group members. In such cases we expect you to divide tasks between yourselves, to share information in full and to collaborate on the structure and argument of the report. The aim here is to enable you to develop your team working skills. Where group work is required, this is always made clear in the assignment brief.

(b) Avoiding Collusion on Individual Assignments

In other cases, however, (and unless otherwise specified) you are expected to complete an assignment on an individual basis. It is very important to avoid collusion with your colleagues and you should be careful about when and how you work with others. Some general guidelines are provided below. If you have any questions about what levels of co-operation might be acceptable for a particular piece of assessed work, you could consult your Course Co-ordinator.

It is normally not acceptable to:

  • Discuss plans for essays, the general argument you will make, the evidence you will use and the structure of the report with another student.
  • Show your completed (or draft) report or essay to another student.
  • Read the completed (or draft) report or essay of another student.
  • Share spreadsheets, calculations, workings, graphs or other exhibits etc. with another student or ask for a copy of these from a fellow student. Where such work is required, you should complete it independently.
  • Check someone else’s work.

It is normally acceptable to:

  • Co-operate on finding information. If there are lots of potential sources of information to be investigated, you can divide these between a small number of students and then share the information you have found. This may be an effective way to identify useful sources and to organise sharing access to books and articles. However, you must read the sources yourself and should not share any notes that you have made.
  • Provide a fellow student with assistance in understanding some general principle that underlies the assignment. For example, on calculative questions, you should not give a copy of your answer or workings to a fellow student who is experiencing difficulties, but it may be acceptable to work through an example provided in a textbook, lecture, workshop or tutorial which would allow them to gain a better understanding of the task they have been set and thus allow them to complete that task on their own.

If other students ask for your help you should ensure that you do not provide them with any assistance that might be interpreted as possible collusion. If you allow another student access to your work and it is then plagiarised (by them or by anyone else) then you too are regarded as being party to that plagiarism, whether you knew about it or not, and you risk being penalised. So, do not pass your work on to others. If you are asked by another student for help that you do not think you should provide, please suggest that they consult the member of staff responsible for the assignment.

Plagiarism Detection Software

The University uses electronic systems, such as TurnitinUK, for the purposes of detecting plagiarism and other forms of academic malpractice and for marking. Please note that work submitted to TurnitinUK or any other electronic system may be copied and then stored in a database to allow appropriate checks to be made. It is not advisable to conduct your own plagiarism software checks prior to submitting your work; if your submitted work matches to the draft you could be subject to an academic malpractice case. Please instead following the guidance in the Referencing and Plagiarism section above.

How suspected Academic Malpractice is handled

Dealing with a case of suspected malpractice by an undergraduate or postgraduate taught student always starts at School level and may be referred upwards to Faculty and/or University level depending on the severity of the case and the level of the student.

The School has an appointed Academic Malpractice Officer whose role it is to oversee the detection of malpractice and to handle all allegations of suspected malpractice in accordance with the University’s Procedure for Handling Academic Malpractice Cases.

Where plagiarism is suspected in relation to a course unit delivered by another School, the School which owns the course unit will conduct the initial investigation and provide the evidence of the alleged academic malpractice. AMBS will then take forward the allegation.