Plagiarism & academic integrity

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UNSW has an ongoing commitment to fostering a culture of learning informed by academic integrity. All UNSW staff and students have a responsibility to adhere to this principle of academic integrity. Plagiarism undermines academic integrity and isn’t tolerated at UNSW.

Depending on the level of seriousness, plagiarism can be viewed at UNSW as a form of academic misconduct and is treated seriously. The following describes what plagiarism is and where you can obtain additional information about it. It’s part of your responsibility as a student of UNSW to ensure that you understand what plagiarism is, so you can avoid it in your assignments and other academic work.

  • Plagiarism is defined as “using the words or ideas of others and passing them off as your own”. Plagiarism is a type of intellectual theft. It can take many forms, from deliberate cheating to accidentally copying from a source without proper acknowledgement. UNSW groups plagiarism into the following categories:

    • Copying: Using the same or very similar words to the original text or idea without acknowledging the source and using quotation marks. This includes copying materials, ideas or concepts from a book, article, report or other written document, presentation, composition, artwork, design, drawing, circuitry, computer program or software, website, internet, other electronic resource, or another person’s assignment, without appropriate acknowledgement. This can also include combining cited and non-cited (copied) passages.
    • Inappropriate paraphrasing: Changing a few words and phrases while mostly retaining the original structure and/or progression of ideas of the original, and information without acknowledgement. This also applies in presentations where someone paraphrases another’s ideas or words without credit and to piecing together quotes and paraphrases into a new whole, without appropriate referencing.
    • Collusion: Presenting work as independent work when it has been produced in whole or part in collusion with other people. This includes students providing their submitted work to another student for the purpose of them plagiarising, stealing or acquiring another person’s academic work and copying it, offering to complete another person’s work, or seeking or receiving payment for completing academic work. This shouldn’t be confused with academic collaboration.
    • Contract cheating: Contract cheating is also known as engaging in ‘ghost-writing’. It’s a form of collusion. When a student or researcher engages another person to complete work for them and then submits the work as their own. This includes circumstances where a student or researcher submits work they may have edited which was substantially the work of another person, or where a student or researcher prepares a draft that’s substantially modified by another (beyond minor editing).
    • Inappropriate citation: This involves citing sources which haven’t been read and not acknowledging the 'secondary' source from which knowledge of them has been obtained. This may include fabricating citations, or inaccurately citing sources which goes beyond typographical errors.
    • Self-plagiarism: This involves an author republishing their own previously submitted work and presenting it as new findings or work without referencing the earlier work, either in its entirety or partially. Self-plagiarism is also referred to as ‘recycling’, ‘duplication’ or ‘multiple submissions of research findings’ without disclosure. In the student context, self-plagiarism includes re-using parts of, or all of, a body of work that has already been submitted for assessment without proper citation. Where a student is repeating a course, they should seek permission from the course coordinator before re-submitting, in whole or part, the same piece of assessment.

    Further information can be found in the UNSW Plagiarism Policy.

    UNSW categorises plagiarism into the following categories: ‘Poor Scholarship’, ‘Minor Plagiarism’, ‘Moderate Plagiarism’, ‘Significant’ Plagiarism’ and ‘Serious Plagiarism’. In many cases, ‘Poor Scholarship’ and ‘Minor Plagiarism’ are the result of inexperience or poor academic skills, rather than the deliberate intention to deceive. However, the same penalties may apply for plagiarism related to inexperience in scholarly writing and referencing requirements. As postgraduate students, it’s your responsibility to ensure all work submitted complies with the rules of student conduct and academic integrity. The university has adopted an educative approach to plagiarism and developed a range of resources to support students, which are outlined below.

  • Procedures are in place that are categorised as 'Poor Scholarship’, ‘Minor Plagiarism’, ‘Moderate Plagiarism’ and ‘Significant Plagiarism’, based on the extent and seriousness of the case. Allegations at these levels are addressed at the school level by your Program Directors, who are nominated School Student Integrity Advisers. If the allegation is substantiated, the student is placed on the UNSW Plagiarism Register and penalties may apply. Any Serious Plagiarism case is considered serious student misconduct and is referred to the UNSW Conduct and Integrity Office for investigation and determination.

    All cases of plagiarism require educative action and referral to the Student Academic and Career Success. Penalties may also apply, based on the level of plagiarism and previous history of the student. These range from a reduction in marks through to failing a course, or for more serious matters, suspension or exclusion from the University. Multiple instances of substantiated poor scholarship and plagiarism are managed by the UNSW Conduct and Integrity Office and may be a breach of the UNSW Student Code of Conduct. For more information on plagiarism and academic misconduct, refer to UNSW Student Misconduct Procedures and UNSW Plagiarism Management Procedure.

    At the School of Population Health, we have developed guidelines for students to inform you of the procedures considered appropriate for our postgraduate coursework students. The following outline the responsibilities for you as a student at the SPH as well as the responsibilities of the course convenors and Program Directors when managing plagiarism.

    Submitting assignments: When you submit your assignments on Moodle, you submit through Turnitin. Turnitin is a similarity detection software that enables assignments to be checked for plagiarism including improper citation or misappropriated content. Each assignment submitted to Turnitin is checked against the submitted assignments of other students as well as the internet and key resources selected by the course convenor.

    The Turnitin originality report is an indication similarity of your assignment to other students work as well as online sources and peer-reviewed literature. The percentage similarity isn’t a reliable indicator of plagiarism (i.e. there’s no cut off), but assists the marker in identifying passages of text that are similar to other published works. The Turnitin originality report is just one tool course convenors use to determine if the assessment you submitted is your own work and whether you have appropriately acknowledged your sources. It’s important for you to understand how you can use Turnitin as a tool to self-manage plagiarism.

    The role of the course convenor: It’s the course covenor’s responsibility to review all submitted assignments for evidence of plagiarism prior to commencing marking. All suspected assignments are notified to the relevant Program Director. The suspected assignments are not graded until the investigation is finalised.

    The role of Program Directors: It’s the responsibility of Program Directors to investigate and make decisions on all allegations of plagiarism for students undertaking coursework within the school. All students for which allegations arise are required to meet with a Program Director to discuss their case. Program Directors will then determine the appropriate plagiarism level, penalties and requirements for resubmission of the assessment. Program Directors are also responsible for registering all substantiated cases of plagiarism with the UNSW Conduct and Integrity Office.

    What can I expect if my assessment is suspected of plagiarism?  

    • All students for which allegations arise will receive an email from their Program Director, outlining the allegation and attaching the Turnitin originality report (if relevant) and the login key for the UNSW Academic Integrity module on Moodle.
    • All students are invited to meet with the Program Director investigating academic integrity for the course to discuss their case, either in person or over the telephone, before a decision is made.
    • Prior to attending the meeting, students are required to complete the Working with Academic Integrity module and submit their response to all sections, including the exit tasks. Completion of this module will be considered at the meeting along with other relevant information such as the student’s academic history.
    • After considering the evidence, the Program Director will determine if the allegation of plagiarism is substantiated, the appropriate plagiarism level and penalty, and requirements for resubmission. A summary report is emailed to the student and the course convenor. Students may be referred to the Student Academic and Career Success, if required.
    • Once the decision has been made, the student’s grades will be released.
    • Students have 20 working days to appeal the decision. Appeals must be made to the Head of School and only on the grounds of lack of procedural fairness.
    • Serious plagiarism cases are referred to the UNSW Conduct and Integrity Office. In most cases, an investigation process similar to that described above is undertaken by the UNSW Conduct and Integrity Office.

    Confidentiality: All cases of suspected and substantiated plagiarism are confidential. The UNSW Student Plagiarism Register is a confidential database managed by the UNSW Conduct and Integrity Officer.

  • UNSW’s Academic Integrity & Plagiarism Website

    This site aims to address three issues that often result in plagiarism: unfamiliarity with the concept of plagiarism, knowing how it occurs and developing the necessary academic skills to avoid plagiarism. As a student, you’ll be able to use this collection of resources (worked examples, activities and links) to improve your all-round academic literacy and, consequently, reduce the possibilities for plagiarism. More information is available on the UNSW Academic & Plagiarism Integrity site.

    Student Academic and Career Success

    The Student Academic and Career Success academic skills support hub provides a range of programs and resources for students including website materials, workshops, individual tuition and online tutorials to aid students in:

    • correct referencing and citation practices
    • paraphrasing, summarising, essay writing and time management
    • appropriate use of, and attribution for, a range of materials including text, images, formulae and concepts.

    The ELISE Study Skills tutorial

    ELISE (Enabling Library & Information Skills for Everyone) is an online tutorial to help you understand how to find and use information for your assignments or research. It will also help you understand plagiarism and how to avoid it. The ELISE Study Skills tutorials are highly recommended to postgraduate students in their first term of study.

  • The UNSW Student Code provides a framework for the standard of conduct expected of UNSW students with respect to their academic integrity and behaviour. It outlines the primary obligations of students, and directs staff and students to the Code and related procedures.