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  1. StudyWell
  2. Understanding Academic Misconduct
  3. Key Terms
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Key Terms

Academic misconduct is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of inappropriate activity within an academic context.

Some people get confused between plagiarism on the one hand, and academic misconduct on the other. The difference is that academic misconduct is a broader-based term: it refers to any form of an abuse of academic conventions or regulations by an individual or group, with the intention of gaining advantage over others. Academic misconduct might occur through plagiarism, collusion, cheating, intentional disruption, or through other means.

To help you understand what types of activities fall under the broad umbrella of academic misconduct, the most common of these activities are defined and described on this page.

Collusion

Collusion is students working together to create and submit a similar or identical assignment or assessment, without authority from their tutor or School.

Collusion occurs when two or more people produce a piece of work together or work closely together in the undertaking of work, but each submit that work as if it were their own. The parties involved knowingly use each other's work, in an attempt to deceive a third party (such as a marker or an assessor). Similarly, if one person allows another to copy their work and then submit it as their own, this too would represent an attempt to deceive a third party and would therefore represent collusion.

Of course, at times students are asked to undertake group-work and in these situations may legitimately work together. However, any group-work task should be clear in explaining how and to what extent students may work together (for example, does the group-work include writing a joint report). If students work together beyond what the group-work arrangements are that too might constitute collusion.

Again, students should always ask their tutor if they have any questions or concerns.

Plagiarism

The University defines plagiarism as follows: 'Plagiarism is passing off the ideas or words of someone else as though they were your own. It applies equally to the work of other students as to published sources'. It can include:

  • Submitting, as one's own, an assignment that another person has completed.
  • Downloading information, text, artwork, graphics or other material from the internet and presenting it as one's own without acknowledgment.
  • Quoting or paraphrasing material from a source without acknowledgment.
  • Copying from other members while working in a group.
  • Contributing less, little or nothing to a group assignment and then claiming an equal share of the marks.

Although this provides a useful starting point, it perhaps does not give a complete picture of what constitutes plagiarism. A broader and widely accepted understanding is that plagiarism occurs when someone uses another person's work, words, thoughts, ideas, or inventions as their own, whether deliberately or unintentionally, without appropriately acknowledging that they have done so (for example, through a reference).

The issue of intention bears no relevance to the question of whether or not plagiarism has occurred. However, intentional and accidental plagiarism may be dealt with in different ways; for example via varying penalties or processes.

As explained elsewhere on this site, the advice to students is to always check the explanations and regulations on plagiarism for your own programme, and if there is anything you do not understand, please seek the advice of your tutor.

Cheating

Cheating encompasses a very broad range of dishonest and inappropriate conduct within the academic environment, which doesn't fit under any of the definitions given above. Cheating includes faking research data, copying work during an exam or bringing disallowed material into an exam situation, forging supervisor signatures and many other forms of academic misconduct that would create an unfair advantage over your peers.

Cheating also includes:

  • Cheating in an exam: either by copying from other students or using unauthorised notes or other aids.
  • Impersonation: where a person assumes the identity of another person with the intention of gaining unfair advantage for that person
  • Falsification or fabrication: inventing or altering data or references.
  • Duplication: Preparing a correctly cited and referenced assignment from individual research and then handing part or all of that work in twice for separate subjects/marks, without acknowledging the first assignment correctly.
  • Ghosting: Submitting as your own work that has been done in whole or in part by another person on your behalf, or deliberately making or seeking to make available material to another student for it to be used by the other student.
  • Disruption: preventing an assessment from being conducted in an orderly and appropriate manner
  • Self-plagiarism: Copying the words or ideas of your own previous work without acknowledgement of this. If you use your own previous work, you must still reference to it in the normal way, otherwise you give the impression that you have written new material, when this is not the case.

Note that some Schools or programmes (for example the professional programmes in City Law School) may have developed additional definitions and examples of what constitutes academic misconduct in order to fit in with professional requirements. Students should contact the relevant Programme Office for more information, or if they wish to clarify whether this is the case.

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.