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Many students confuse academic honesty allegations with misconduct allegations.
If your allegation letter is from your faculty and says you have potentially breached the Academic Integrity Policy, you should read the information below. If your letter is from the Registrar or the Student Affairs Unit, and says you have potentially breached the Student Discipline Rule, you should read our Guide to Student Misconduct.
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. 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; or
- 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 Harvard, APA, etc) vary across the University but the main test is whether you have made it clear where each separate phrase, 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 can talk to your friends about an assignment, but only in general concepts, without taking any notes, looking at their work, or letting them look at yours. If you copy and paste sections of source material into your assignment, take care to keep track of what words are your own and what are quotes or other people’s ideas. Put the source aside so you can’t see it when you are changing 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, where further penalties in addition to a fail can apply. These are outlined in the Student Discipline Rule 2016.
Why is it important?
If 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 present someone else’s work as your own work;
- it is an important part of the academic practice they are teaching you; and
- 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, whether you agree with what you have read, and whether you can find reliable and relevant sources.
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 is considered academic dishonesty. If it is a new assessment you need to do new work and use new words. Giving your assignment to your friend, who then plagiarises can also be a breach of the University’s Academic Integrity Policy. If you would like to help a friend with their assignment, you could encourage them to talk to your tutor about the areas they are having difficulty with, or you could talk to them, where neither of you are writing down notes, to ensure that you are only sharing ideas, rather than copying work. Taking unauthorised items such as calculators, written notes or mobile phones into an examination room is another example of Academic Dishonesty.
What to do if you have been sent an academic integrity allegation?
If you receive an academic integrity allegation you will be invited to a meeting to give your response. If you do not attend, they will make a decision and give a penalty without you. If you are not available for the meeting, ask for another meeting time, or give 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 (e.g., your assignment with the problematic sections highlighted, or an exam incident report);
- an opportunity to respond with specific deadlines; and
- the name of the faculty’s Education Integrity Coordinator or Nominated Academic handling your case.
They are not judging whether it was a good assignment, or whether you are a good person, but whether you breached the Academic Honesty rules. Be prepared to acknowledge a problem if there is one and clearly explain your circumstances. If you are distressed by this process talk to someone in the Student Counselling Service about strategies to help you manage this distress.
If you have missed the deadline to respond, contact the Faculty immediately to ask them for an extension. If you do not respond they will make a determination without you.
What to expect at the meeting?
The Educational Integrity Coordinator or the Nominated Academic (the decision-maker) will decide if your work constitutes plagiarism or other ‘academic dishonesty’ and if so, what penalty to apply. You can explain how you wrote the assessment, what your circumstance were at the time, and whether you plagiarised or used unauthorised materials, and they might ask you some questions to clarify details. The meeting is usually 15-30 minutes long. They should be courteous, and you should be courteous back. They will consider your answers and decide, using a balance of probability, if it is likely that you are telling the truth.
How might you respond?
- Start by apologising for the inconvenience.
- State whether you accept or deny the allegation.
- If it was an assignment, explain how you wrote it, e.g., did you copy and paste from a website, with the intention of paraphrasing it; or did you discuss the assignment with another student. If it was an exam, explain what notes or devices you had with you; what devices you had still logged into Canvas or other relevant websites or apps; and what processes you used to answer each of the questions.
- Explain any mitigating circumstances, that is, what was happening in your life at the time, e.g., busy with other assignments, worried about a family issue, feeling unwell. If possible, provide evidence to support your claims.
- Explain how you will make sure that you do not have academic honesty issues. For example, if you had difficulty with referencing, re-do the Academic Honesty Education Module in Canvas.
What are the possible outcomes?
Recently there have been significant delays in receiving both allegations and outcomes. It may take a few weeks to get a response. They will send you their decision together with any penalty, as well as information on how to appeal. Part 10 of the Academic Honesty Procedures 2022 outline the range of outcomes and penalties that may be applied. They might conclude that there is no impropriety, that is, you have done nothing wrong. The most common penalty given is a fail for the assignment. You will not be expelled from the University for a breach of academic honesty. Any finding of academic dishonesty will be noted in your confidential student file. Only the academic integrity team can access this file. Your future teachers cannot access that file. It will not be noted on your transcript. It will not affect your ability to do postgraduate study, and your future employers will not know about it. The only people that will know about it, are people that you choose to tell.
If your academic honesty allegation involves a file sharing or tutoring website (e.g., Chegg, coursehero, Github), the matter may be referred to the Registrar for investigation of Student Misconduct.
Where you can get help?
SRC caseworkers are not employees of the University and can give professional, independent advice without judging you. We can provide you with advice on the process and responding to an allegation.
For more information on how to correctly reference an assignment redo the University Academic Honesty Education Learning Module (AHEM) on Canvas. You can also get free advice from the Learning Hub or check the library’s citation guide. For help with essay writing check the Learning Hub’s online resources or book an appointment.
Tips for video meetings with the University
If you have a video (Zoom) meeting with the University, you should show them that you are taking the matter seriously and are respectful of the process. Consider these tips:
- Physical appearance - Your appearance will set the tone for your meeting. Wear smart casual clothes, e.g., an ironed button up shirt, or a neat jumper.
- Background - The University does not need to see your personal space, so use one of the virtual backgrounds. You can even add your own pictures to personalise your background. Click on the arrow next to "Stop Video" then "Choose Virtual Background" then choose one of the existing backgrounds or click on "+" to add your own.
- Headphones - Using headphones will help you to hear and be heard more clearly. It may also provide you a bit more privacy if you are in a shared space. If you are not talking, you can "mute" your microphone to stop any outside noise interrupting your meeting.
- Notes - Have a notepad and pen will allow you to take notes of what is said in the meeting. If you need to keep these notes for future reference type them into an email and send it to yourself, so you won't have to worry about losing it.
Need more help or advice?
If you need more advice about your specific situation, contact an SRC Caseworker by completing the contact form (below)
Caseworker Contact Form
Important Notice and Disclaimer: This information does not constitute legal advice. Check with a caseworker for the most up-to-date information. Do not accept verbal advice by itself from any source including Centrelink. Get a decision in writing. Without this subsequent appeals or backdating are at risk.
Information updated on 19/12/23