Avoiding Plagiarism, Collusion & Cheating

In your programme of study, as in all UK universities, it is important that all students are judged on their abilities, and that no student is allowed to unfairly take advantage over others, to affect the integrity of assessment processes or to diminish quality of a degree from the University of Hertfordshire. In short, it is important that all coursework, written or practical, is undertaken with academic integrity.

What is good academic practice?

Good academic practice requires you to develop your:

  • Study skills – e.g. reading, note taking, summarising, paraphrasing and research
  • Critical skills of enquiry and evaluation – e.g. balanced opinion, reasoning and argument
  • Referencing skills – e.g. knowing when and how to reference

Good academic practice involves:

  • drawing on research and evidence from writings in your field of study
  • discussing and evaluating existing concepts and theories
  • demonstrating your understanding of key academic material
  • developing your own independent evaluation of the topic in question
  • constructing your own arguments

What is bad academic practice?

Bad academic practice is often caused by failing to understand what is expected and what is allowed/not allowed. Bad academic practices are essentially forms of academic dishonesty, and can be considered misconduct. These include plagiarism, self-plagiarism, collusion, fake referencing, fraud, and other behaviours that call into question whether the work is your own. A full list of activities that are classified as academic misconduct can be found in the UPRs, AS14 appendix 3.

Plagiarism is representing another person’s work as being your own, or the use of another person’s work without acknowledgement. Another person’s work includes any written work (including lecture hand outs), original ideas, research, strategies, but also art, graphics, computer programmes, music or other creative expression.

Plagiarism may take the form of:

  • importing into your work phrases from another person’s work without using quotation marks or identifying the source
  • making a copy of all or part of another person’s work and presenting it as your own by failing to disclose the source
  • making extensive use of another person’s work, either by summarising or paraphrasing the work merely by changing a few words or altering the order in which the material is presented, without acknowledgement of the source
  • the use of ideas of another person without acknowledgement of the source, or the presentation of work as your own which substantially comprises the ideas of another person
  • making up false information, such as inventing references, adding references to texts that you have not read, inventing quotes, or including any other information that is false or fabricated.
  • use software to change words or phrases in an attempt to avoid plagiarism.
  • use images produced by another person or based substantially on the work of another person without acknowledgement.
  • or
  • translate a source from another language and present it as your own original work.

When will plagiarism amount to an assessment offence?

An assessment offence will have been committed where the extent of the plagiarism is such that a significant element of the submission is not the student’s own work.

What amounts to a ‘significant element’ is a question of both fact and degree that depends upon the circumstances of the particular assessment, upon which ultimately the School’s Academic Integrity Advisor will make a judgement. The only way you can be sure that you are not committing an assessment offence is not to plagiarise at all!

It is also not acceptable to self-plagiarise, that is, you should never duplicate your own work. Each submission should be unique.

As plagiarism represents a reduction in the quality and value of the work produced by the student, any degree of plagiarism (even if not so significant as to amount to an assessment offence) will inevitably result in a substantial reduction in the grade awarded for the assessment. On these grounds alone it should be avoided at all costs.

What should I do if I want to use another person’s work?

If another person’s words are used, you should put the words in quotation marks and quote their source.

If another person’s ideas are used then you should quote the source. The term ‘source’ includes all published work such as books, journals and newspapers. It includes information obtained from web sites, photographs, plays, and any use of visual arts such as paintings, designs and drawings.

Correct use and acknowledgement of all sources will prevent the assessment offence of plagiarism from occurring. You should, however, be aware that even where materials are acknowledged, or put in quotation marks where appropriate, extensive copying is unacceptable and will result in a poor grade. Only by using your own words can you demonstrate your understanding.

Another form of academic dishonesty is collusion

Collusion is working together to produce assessed work in circumstances where this is forbidden. The University regulations define collusion as ‘the representation of work that has been undertaken jointly with another person(s) as being work undertaken independently of that other person(s)’

Discussions about issues arising out of your studies including assessed work are acknowledged to be an important part of the learning process. However structuring, sharing notes or actually writing up an answer using the same words as another student(s) will amount to collusion.

It is obviously not permitted to make assessed work that you have produced on your own available to other students for any reason. It may be difficult to establish that your own work was the original source and that it has been copied. Additionally it is an assessment offence to permit or assist another student to copy or paraphrase your work.

Group assessments

You may be asked to work together on a group assessment. In this event you need to check the assignment instructions carefully to ascertain whether you are being required to produce individual components or collective work as the outcomes of your group work. In either case the University Regulations require you to state clearly at the end of each piece of coursework submitted for assessment, the name(s) of any other student with whom you have worked.


There are other forms of misconduct inaddition to plagiarism and collusion that also constitute academic misconduct. Cheating includes any activities that may result in the submission of work that is not your own, without aproper acknowledgement of the soure, or attempts to enable others to submit work that is not their own. For some projects you may need to employ some content that was not produced by yourself, such as stock images, but if this is allowed for any individual assignment it will be clearly stated in your assignment brief and/or module guide. Be very careful to avoid websites that advertise study guides or sample assignments as the use of these websites will likely lead to an allegation of cheating, as many such websites provide content that can be falsely presented as students’ own work.

Using third-party support

It is good practice to proofread or check your work before submission, or to show your work to your peers during crits. However, if a third party contributes to your work, this may constitute collusion or cheating, which are academic offences.

If you are seeking help with your assignment from anyone other than your tutor, you need to be aware of the University’s guidance on proofreading, specifically, what your proofreader or any other third-party can and cannot do.

Students who use third-party proofreaders, including peers, family, friends or professional proofreading services must:

  • Declare that they have used a proofreader in writing in their submission

Proofreaders or other third-parties may:

  • Identify areas for possible improvement
  • Identify errors
  • Identify poor grammar
  • Identify formatting inconsistencies
  • Highlight errors or poor communication
  • Draw attention to repeated words/phrases
  • Demonstrate how to use a tool or technique

Proofreaders must not:

  • Contribute any additional material
  • Directly adjust or manipulate your work
  • Rewrite any passages or change any words
  • Rearrange or move content
  • Reformat text or files
  • Implement a referencing system or alter references
  • Translate your work into English from any other language.

What are the penalties for plagiarism, cheating, and/or collusion?

The criteria for determining penalties for plagiarism, cheating, and collusion are set out in the University Regulations in UPR AS14. The University’s rules and regulations on academic misconduct are summarised in the Student Handbook and listed in full in the Academic Regulations for Undergraduate and Taught Postgraduate Programmes (UPR AS 14).

All forms of assessment are covered by the regulations on plagiarism , cheating, and collusion. Academic offences are not limited to the writing of essays or dissertations but may occur, for example, in respect of student led seminars presentations, computer based projects, designs etc.

What procedures are followed in event of suspected academic misconduct?

Procedures for dealing with suspected offences are to be found in the University Regulations UPR AS14.

Where a tutor suspects that an academic offence has taken place, they will annotate the student’s work, marking up any part(s) of the work they believe to have been plagiarised or copied from another student and they will send the marked up copy to the School’s Academic Integrity Advisor for consideration. Students should note that increasingly sophisticated software is now being made available to universities for the detection of plagiarism.

Remember – at registration, you will have signed an agreement to abide by the University’s regulations and you will have acknowledged your understanding of the regulations relation to academic misconduct as described above.

You confirm your understanding of this when you sign the assessment feedback sheet on the submission of your course work.

Here are some suggestions to help you develop good academic practices for yourself:

  • when you take notes from sources, try to express ideas in your own words and clearly indicate where you are paraphrasing and quoting the source
  • plan your study time. Be aware of deadlines and leave plenty of time for the writing stage to avoid the need to take ‘short cuts’ which could lead to bad academic practice
  • avoid extensive use of materials or quotations from external published sources. To demonstrate your knowledge and understanding, you need to express your thoughts and ideas in your own words. Only by using your own words can you demonstrate your understanding
  • the purpose of assessment is to enable you to develop and demonstrate your own knowledge and understanding of an area of study. It is expected that your work should be informed by, and refer to the work of others in the field. However all such contributions must be acknowledged in accordance with conventions of Referencing
  • As well as references in your bibliography, you should acknowledge another person’s ideas, practice or words using appropriate conventions of foot/end notes. It is important to make clear what materials have been taken from other sources and what are your own.
  • In group work assignments, please refer to the assignment instructions on how individual contributions to joint work should be identified and will be assessed. If you are in any doubt, check with your module tutor

What to do if you receive an allegation of academic misconduct

If there is an allegation of misconduct made against you, you will receive a letter of notification outlining the allegation. You will then have 5 days in which to contact the author of the letter (this is normally one of the School Academic Integrity Officers). If you are not sure why the allegation has been made, or would like to discuss it further, it is a good idea to agree to meet the SAIO so that they can explain the allegation and how to avoid future bad practice. This meeting also provides you with an opportunity to share your perspective on the allegation, including any mitigating circumstances that you may have.

It may be tempting to contact your tutor about the allegation, as they are familiar to you, but once you have received a formal letter of notification the SAIO should be your main contact until the investigation is complete. Your tutor will refer you back to the SAIO if you have further questions about the allegation.

After you have spoken to the SAIO, or after 5 days if you do not contact them, they will decide on the outcome of your case. If it is a minor or first offence, the case can normally be handled within the School by the SAIO, and they will make a recommendation to the Module Board of Examiners.

For more serious allegations, you may be invited to attend a formal hearing known as a Serious Academic Misconduct Panel. This is an impartial panel which will look at evidence from both sides and, if they find that the misconduct is proven, they will impose a penalty.

If you have received an allegation and would like support, you can contact the Student Union. They will be able to offer advice and can provide a support person to attend a SAMP hearing with you.


Lastly…You can help yourself get a clear picture of avoid the pitfalls of plagiarism and collusion. Have a look Plagiarism and Collusion Quiz

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