What Is Academic Dishonesty And Plagiarism?

Academic dishonesty includes plagiarism, recycling your own work or other ways of gaining an academic advantage unfairly or dishonestly.  See the University’s Academic Honesty in Coursework Policy 2015 for a full definition.

The University uses similarity detection software and other methods to identify and highlight any similarities in written work. Any concerns are referred to the Educational Integrity Coordinator (EIC) in your faculty who reviews these similarities and checks for possible plagiarism or academic dishonesty.

Plagiarism can arise if you :

  • use someone else’s words from a source without including quotation marks around those words. (e.g. through a cut and paste from the internet)
  • use someone else’s words, or ideas, or facts without a reference or citation at the end of the sentence indicating where you found the words or ideas or facts.
  • use someone else’s words or ideas or facts without also writing the source you used in the reference list (or bibliography) so the source can be found.
  • Use or copy another student’s work, or reuse work that you have previously submitted for assessment without prior approval from your Unit Coordinator.

Referencing styles (such as footnotes, Harvard etc) vary across the University but the main test is whether you have made it clear where each separate word, idea or fact can be found. You might need several references in any given paragraph.

Even short phrases need quote marks if they are not your own words. You got them from somewhere; explain which words and where you got them from? The only exception, and you need to be very careful about this, is if they are words or ideas that everyone would already know as a matter of common knowledge. If in doubt ask your tutor.

You are also not allowed to submit words from someone else’s assignment. Discussion with a fellow student may be OK, but the structure and all the words have to be your own. Talk to your friends about an assignment but don’t read their draft or final assignments. Read a source, take notes and carefully keep track of what words are your own and what are quotes or other’s ideas.  Put the source aside so you can’t see it when you are putting it into your own words. Poor paraphrasing often results in plagiarism.

Buying an essay or paying for someone to write all or part of your assignment is considered both plagiarism and misconduct. Misconduct cases are referred to the University’s Registrar for formal investigation. Further penalties in addition to a fail can apply. These are outlined in the Student Discipline Rule 2016.

Why Is It Important?

f you don’t use quotation marks and references for someone else’s words or ideas then the marker will assume it’s all your work. If the marker finds words from a source that you have not told them about then they will think you are being dishonest.

They care about this because:

  • it is a clear rule you could be breaking
  • you get an unfair advantage if you pass off someone else’s work as your own work.
  • it is an important part of the academic practice they are teaching you.
  • they are marking you on what you know – not what the source knows.

If you are an undergraduate you are not likely to be writing something purely original. But the marker wants to know what you have learnt from the material you have read. Do you agree with what you have read? Is one source better or more relevant or reliable than another? In what ways does a source support an argument you want to make? How does it help answer the question? Engaging with these questions can make the assessment more interesting for you too.

Other Forms Of Academic Dishonesty

You cannot recycle or reuse your own old assignments. Submitting work you have already handed in for another unit of study may not constitute plagiarism as such but is considered academic dishonesty. If it is a new assessment you need to do new work and use new words; you cannot reuse work you previously submitted unless you have approval from your unit coordinator/examiner.

Giving your assignment to your friend who then plagiarises can also be a breach of the University’s Academic Honesty Policy. Avoid this.

Taking unauthorized items such as calculators, written notes or other forbidden items into an examination room is another example of Academic Dishonesty.

What To Do If You Have Been Sent An Allegation Of Academic Dishonesty?

The Academic Honesty Procedures outline the process for handling academic honesty breaches. If you receive an allegation of Academic Dishonesty you will be invited to a meeting to give your response. If you do not go they will make a decision and give a penalty without you. If you are not available for a good reason tell them and arrange another time, or ask if you can provide a written response to the allegation. You should be provided with:

  • a clear outline of the nature of the allegation;
  • all evidence relating to the allegation should be attached (this may be a copy of your assignment with problematic sections highlighted or a copy of the report made by the exam invigilator);
  • an opportunity to respond in writing as well as notice to attend a meeting, and specific timelines for these responses;
  • the name of the faculty’s Education Integrity Coordinator or Nominated Academic handling your case

Look at the report and copy of the assignment they have sent you.  Think about the work you handed in. They are not judging whether it was a good assignment or not, or whether you are a good person or not – but whether you breached the Academic Honesty rules. Be prepared to acknowledge a problem if there is one.

Seek advice and support from a SRC caseworker if you need it. Ask them or a friend to come to the meeting as a support person if you need to.

Take it seriously. Deal with it. But if possible don’t let it disrupt the rest of your study – that only compounds the impact of any potential penalty you might face.

What To Expect At The Meeting?

The Educational Integrity Coordinator or the Nominated Academic (the decision-maker) needs to decide if it constitutes plagiarism or other ‘academic dishonesty’ or not and if so what penalty might apply.

They will show you the assignment and ask for your response. How did this happen? There will be a discussion and they might ask you some questions. A decision may be made at the meeting or sent to you afterwards. The meeting may go for 15-30 minutes.

You can ask for more information if something is not clear. If you have not been sent the documents to be able to respond to the allegation you should ask for these. You might also ask for more time to respond. They should be courteous, and you should be courteous back.

How Might You Respond?

They should explain the problem in the meeting. They will seek a believable answer to their questions, such as how did certain words from other sources come to be in your assignment without references.

They do not need to prove anything ‘beyond any reasonable doubt’. They only need to make a decision on what is most likely – this is called the ‘balance of probabilities’. If you were the ‘nominated academic’ would you believe it more likely that you plagiarized or another explanation you give them.

Our advice is always to be very honest with them. If you invent an explanation and they do not believe you this may well lead to worse outcomes, as well as an unpleasant meeting.  Generally, acknowledging there is problem where there is one is a sign that you have understood the importance of the matter and this may lead to a lesser penalty if there is going to be one. Seek advice before saying a problem is not plagiarism or ‘academic dishonesty’.

Next explain any reasons you may have for why this has occurred. There may be what are called ‘mitigating’ circumstances. If you have been unwell or a significant event leads to you making a mistake or bad choice then you should say so. You generally need some evidence of this. Poor time management and clashes with other assessment may be an explanation but it is usually not an excuse or ‘mitigating factor’.

You should not expect them to believe you if you say you did not understand the rules. They will point to the many ways they have advised you about Academic Dishonesty and plagiarism. The further you are in your degree, the less likely your faculty will believe that you aren’t familiar with academic honesty requirements.

If the amount of plagiarism is very small and inadvertent you can discuss this but be careful. It is our experience that students commonly underestimate the quantity and proportion of words that match.

What Are The Possible Outcomes?

You should get a copy of the decision in writing. You should be told about your right to appeal and the deadline for that.

Part 10 & 11 of the Academic Honesty Procedures 2016 outline the range of outcomes and penalties that may be applied. They might conclude that there is no impropriety. If the decision is that you have engaged in plagiarism but not academic dishonesty you may be asked to attend an additional development course on academic integrity. If they believe there was academic dishonesty then you might fail the assignment, or the whole Unit. In some minor cases you may be given an opportunity to resubmit under conditions and with marks off. But overall don’t expect to pass the assessment if you didn’t write parts of it in the first place. At the same time, don’t expect to be thrown out of the University if this is the first occasion that you’ve broken the rules on plagiarism.

Academic honesty findings are kept on an internal record accessible to only a very limited number of people. The record is only accessed if a further allegation occurs while you’re studying here. It is not recorded on your academic transcript or disclosed to future employers.

Misconduct

If the decision makers consider the conduct to be sufficiently serious, they will refer it to the Registrar to be dealt with under the University’s Misconduct rules. This happens if they think a fail in the Unit may not be ‘appropriate’ or enough. A specific case of that is where you ‘engaged’ (paid) someone or were paid to write a assignment [see Part 16(5) of the policy]. Seek SRC caseworker help if there is an allegation of misconduct.

Where You Can Get Help?

The SRC caseworkers can assist you in discussion before the meeting, advise you on the Policy, can attend the meeting with you and can advise about appeals. We are not employed by the University and are there to help you. Please allow us to help you in the best possible way, by being honest with us about your actions. This will ensure you get the best possible outcome.

You might also seek general learning assistance from the University’s Learning Centre if you are having difficulties with writing. Please note it is not their role to advise students about allegations of plagiarism – the SRC caseworkers can do that.

All commencing students are now required to complete the Academic Honesty Education Module (AHEM) in their first semester. If you do not complete this module the university will suppress your results until you do.


Useful Links

1. The Academic Honesty Module
If you are unsure about what constitutes plagiarism you can redo the University Academic Honesty Education Learning Module (AHEM) which is available on Canvas.

2. SRC Advice
The SRC has some information and general advice on this at:
srcusyd.net.au/src-help/academic-appeals/plagiarism

3. General University Information
The University has some information and general advice on this at:
sydney.edu.au/students/academic-dishonesty-and-plagiarism.html

See also:
sydney.edu.au/students/writing/evidence-plagiarism-and-referencing.html#referencing

4. Learning Centre Workshops
The University Learning Centre runs workshops and has information at:
sydney.edu.au/stuserv/learning_centre/QSP.shtml

See also:
sydney.edu.au/stuserv/learning_centre/resour.shtml

5.University Library On-line Course
The University Library has taring about referencing and plagiarism at:
library.sydney.edu.au/help/online-training/plagiarism

6. University Library On Referencing
See also this guide to citation referencing:
libguides.library.usyd.edu.au/citation

7. Advice on Writing an Essay
writesite.elearn.usyd.edu.au

See also this on paraphrasing:
writesite.elearn.usyd.edu.au/m2/m2u3/index.htm

8. Some Further Tips from Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association
supra.net.au/ten-tips-on-avoiding-an-allegation-of-academic-dishonesty-or-plagiarism

9. English Language Support Resources
You can find a list of links for support you can get with academic English at :
srcusyd.net.au/src-help/english-language-resources

If you are a FASS student you can also enrol in a Unit of Study on Academic Writing – see:
sydney.edu.au/arts/writing_studies/undergrad/units_of_study.shtml?u=WRIT_1000_2018_1

This information was updated on 13th Dec 2017 (PLA)