14.  Academic malpractice

14.1 Coursework offences

 

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

http://documents.manchester.ac.uk/display.aspx?DocID=6530

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

 

The School and the University take plagiarism very seriously and you must ensure that you understand what plagiarism is and that you understand the penalties involved.  The School and University will take action in all cases where coursework offences have been detected and ignorance of the regulations will not be taken as an acceptable defence. You should also note that you have a responsibility to ensure the originality of your own work (i.e. you should not give other students a chance to copy your work). Students whose work has been made available to be copied will normally be subject to the same penalties as those applied to students who copied.

 

There are four types of offences:

 

Copying and Collusion: This occurs when two or more students submit the substantially same piece of coursework in whole or part. This may be from the same electronic source (e.g. a word-processed document or a program listing) or when the same material is presented in a different way.

You should be aware that material that derives from the same source but which has been changed to make the submissions appear less similar will be considered to be a breach of regulations. This type of offence can occur when students have worked together as a group or where one student has copied from another. Irrespective of how the breach of regulations has occurred all of the students involved will be penalised in the same way. So, for example, if you have your work copied by another student, then you will be punished in the same way as the person who did the copying. This imposes significant responsibilities on students to ensure the integrity of their own coursework. You should ensure that:

 

  • You do not leave work on printers.
  • You do not give passwords to other students.
  • You do not allow other students to use your home computer without taking adequate precautions.
  • You do not show your coursework to other students.

 

These issues are very important. There have been a number of cases in recent years where a student has lent his/her coursework to another student in order to help the other student understand the exercise. After submission the originator has found that the other student has copied his/her coursework. In other cases, students who have shared home computers have found that other students have submitted their coursework.

 

If you believe that another student has gained access to your coursework, you should inform your Programme Director as soon as possible.

 

It is vitally important that when you discuss coursework with others you do so in very general terms and are not so specific that it leads to the same piece of coursework being submitted. The school will use whatever means it sees fit to test coursework for breaches of this regulation. This may include the use of software such as Turnitin that checks submissions against each other. The school reserves the right to insist on electronic submission in specified formats.

 

Copying from another source/plagiarism: This case occurs when you submit work from another source as if it were your own work. The other work may be copied from textbooks, academic papers, Internet resources, and the submission of other students in previous years. You should be very careful that you correctly reference the work of others. Failure to adequately reference the work of others will be deemed to be a breach of this regulation.

 

Repeated Submission: You may submit an item of coursework for assessment on only one occasion (apart from in exceptional circumstances – see below). Where you submit the same piece of coursework for multiple assessments, it will be deemed that you have copied from another source.

 

Fabrication of results: This occurs when you claim results that you have not actually obtained.

 

Penalties for Submission of Improper Coursework will be applied in line with University policy.

 

14.2 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 dissertation 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.

 

14.3 Turnitin

Turnitin is a piece of software that is used by the University to help to identify plagiarised work.  Your MSc dissertation and any coursework submitted electronically 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 Examiners, Teaching & Learning Office, your MSc 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.

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