12.  Academic malpractice

Academic malpractice, which includes but is not limited to plagiarism, collusion, fabrication or falsification of results and research misconduct are very serious offences.  If you are found guilty of a charge of academic malpractice then you can expect very serious consequences up to and including expulsion from the University without the award of your degree.


The guidance below is designed to help you understand what we regard as academic malpractice and hence to help you to avoid committing it.   You should read it carefully, because some students may have been used to different conventions in their prior educational experience or through general ignorance of what is expected of them.  Ignorance of what constitutes academic malpractice is not a defence.  If you are in any doubt about what constitutes academic malpractice, how to appropriately cite the work of other people, etc, then you should speak to your supervisor.


You should also read Regulation XVII ‘Conduct and Discipline of Students’ downloadable from:


and http://www.studentnet.manchester.ac.uk/crucial-guide/academic-life/formal-procedures/conduct-and-discipline.


12.1  Plagiarism

12.1.1  What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is presenting the ideas, work or words of other people without proper, clear and unambiguous acknowledgement. It also includes ‘self-plagiarism’ (which occurs where, for example, you submit work that you have presented for assessment on a previous occasion or has been published under your name elsewhere), and the submission of material from ‘essay banks’ (even if the authors of such material appear to be giving you permission to use it in this way). Obviously, the most blatant example of plagiarism would be to copy another student’s work or to copy work from a textbook, website, or research paper.  Hence it is essential to make clear in your assignments the distinction between:


  • the ideas and work of other people that you may have quite legitimately exploited and developed, and
  • the ideas or material that you have personally contributed.


To assist you, here are a few important do’s and don’ts:


Do get lots of background information on subjects you are writing about to help you form your own view of the subject. The information could be from electronic journals, technical reports, unpublished dissertations, etc. Make a note of the source of every piece of information at the time you record it, even if it is just one sentence.


Don’t construct a piece of work by cutting and pasting or copying material written by other people, or by you for any other purpose, into something you are submitting as your own work. Sometimes you may need to quote someone else’s exact form of words in order to analyse or criticize them, in which case the quotation must be enclosed in quotation marks to show that it is a direct quote, and it must have the source properly acknowledged at that point. Any omissions from a quotation must be indicated by an ellipsis (…) and any additions for clarity must be enclosed in square brackets, e.g. “[These] results suggest… that the hypothesis is correct.” It may also be appropriate to reproduce a diagram from someone else’s work, but again the source must be explicitly and fully acknowledged there. However, constructing large chunks of documents from a string of quotes, even if they are acknowledged, is another form of plagiarism.


Do attribute all ideas to their original authors. Written ‘ideas’ are the product that authors produce. You would not appreciate it if other people passed off your ideas as their own, and that is what plagiarism rules are intended to prevent. A good rule of thumb is that each idea or statement that you write should be attributed to a source unless it is your personal idea or it is common knowledge. (If you are unsure if something is common knowledge, ask other students in the same or similar research group: if they don’t know what you are talking about, then it is not common knowledge!  You could also consult your supervisor.


As you can see, it is most important that you understand what is expected of you when you prepare and produce assignments and that you always observe proper academic conventions for referencing and acknowledgement, whether working by yourself or as part of a team. In practice, there are a number of acceptable styles of referencing depending, for example, on the particular discipline you are studying, so if you are not certain what is appropriate, ask your supervisor! This should ensure that you do not lay yourself open to a charge of plagiarism inadvertently, or through ignorance of what is expected. It is also important to remember that you do not absolve yourself from a charge of plagiarism simply by including a reference to a source in a bibliography that you have included with your report or thesis; you should always be scrupulous about indicating precisely where and to what extent you have made use of such a source.


So far, plagiarism has been described as using the words or work of someone else (without proper attribution), but it could also include a close paraphrase of their words, or a minimally adapted version of a computer program, a diagram, a graph, an illustration, etc taken from a variety of sources without proper acknowledgement. These could be lectures, printed material, the Internet or other electronic/AV sources.


Remember: no matter what pressure you may be under, you should never succumb to the temptation to take a ‘short cut’ and use someone else’s material inappropriately. No amount of mitigating circumstances will get you off the hook.  In addition, if you persuade other students to let you copy their work, they risk being disciplined as well.


12.1.2  Turnitin

Turnitin is a piece of software that is used by the University to help to identify plagiarised work.  Your end of year reports, some elements of coursework for the taught component, and a random selection of submitted PhD and MPhil thesis, will be put through Turnitin and a report generated.  This report will highlight text in your submission that matches text from one or more of the following:


  • other students at the University of Manchester
  • students at other institutions
  • academic publications
  • internet sources


These reports are examined as a standard part of the assessment process.  If the extent to which your report matches existing texts is sufficiently high then it will be closely examined by the Teaching & Learning Office, your supervisory team, your PhD programme director and/or the Director of Postgraduate Studies; if it is decided that there is a case to answer then the formal disciplinary proceedings will start.


Submissions to Turnitin are made anonymously. When your work is submitted to Turnitin it will normally be added to an international database of student papers. Other students’ work will then be compared to your work from that point onwards. If your submission is confidential, the Teaching and Learning Office can ensure that it is not added to the database.


Note: the file size must be less than 20MB, the maximum length of the paper less than 400 pages, and the file types allowed are MS Word, WordPerfect, PostScript, PDF, HTML, RTF and plain text. Unless Powerpoint slides are saved as PDF then they cannot be submitted via Turnitin.


12.2  Collusion

Collusion is any agreement to hide someone else’s individual input to collaborative work. Where proved, it will be subject to penalties similar to those for plagiarism. Similarly, it is also collusion to allow someone to copy your work when you know that they intend to submit it as though it were their own and that will lay both you and the other student open to a charge of academic malpractice.


On the other hand, collaboration is a perfectly legitimate academic activity in which students and researchers are required to work together.  For published research, this often leads to joint papers which have multiple authors.  Joint papers or research done in collaboration with others is acceptable in your PhD thesis, but you should always check with your supervisor as to how this work should be credited.


12.3 Fabrication or falsification of results

For some students, a major part of their studies involves laboratory or other forms of practical work, and they often find themselves undertaking such activity without close academic supervision. If you are in this situation, you are expected to behave in a responsible manner, as in other aspects of your academic life, and to show proper integrity in the reporting of results or other data. Hence you should ensure that you always document clearly and fully any research programme or survey that you undertake, whether working by yourself or as part of a group. Results or data that you or your group submit must be capable of verification, so that those assessing the work can follow the processes by which you obtained them. Under no circumstances should you seek to present results or data that were not properly obtained and documented as part of your practical learning experience. Otherwise, you lay yourself open to the charge of fabrication or falsification of results.




12.4 Research conduct

All research undertaken by a postgraduate research student must be considered to be part of your PhD programme even if it is not subsequently included in your final thesis and must be undertaken in accordance with The Code of Good Research Conduct http://www.rbess.manchester.ac.uk/governance/Conduct/ http://www.rbess.manchester.ac.uk/governance/Conduct/ 

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