Avoiding Plagiarism: FAQs

We’re fast approaching deadline season, and we want to make sure you have all the tools and knowledge to ace your assignments and avoid common mistakes.

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We’re fast approaching deadline season, and we want to make sure you have all the tools and knowledge to ace your assignments and avoid common mistakes.

You already should have been asked to complete the Avoiding Plagiarism course on Moodle, but if you haven’t yet it’s not too late. This will give you a really good understanding of what’s expected of you in terms of academic integrity when you’re submitting work. To help you, our Advice Centre has also put together the answers to some frequently asked questions below, and you can check out their academic advice pages.

Q: What is plagiarism?

A: Plagiarism is including or copying others’ work within your own work, intentionally or unintentionally, without properly crediting the original author(s).

Q: What is Turnitin?

A: Turnitin is used by students to submit their assignments. It is plagiarism software, which helps to identify any possible cases of plagiarism. This software extensively searches internet sources, along with books, journals, and other previous submissions from its users (including student submissions). Once a student submits their work to Turnitin, it becomes part of a large database, which is continually growing.

Any future submissions are checked against all previous Turnitin user submissions. Turnitin does not determine whether any work has been plagiarised by a student; it detects and highlights the part which may have been copied and provides the source of text where a match has been made. This software also helps markers to detect if something has been cited incorrectly or inappropriately so that they can investigate further.

Q: Can I plagiarise my own work?

A: If you submit any of your previously assessed work, then this will be considered as ‘duplication’. Each piece of work you submit for assessment must be your own work. Along with this, it should be a new piece of work. Submitting any assignment more than once, in part or fully, whether it is for a different course, year of study, or degree is prohibited. While you are at university, you need to show progression within your work, you can only do this if you approach each assignment afresh – expanding your research skills. If you would like to cite your own past work, we recommend consulting your course tutor first.

Q: What support is available to me?

A: It’s always a good idea to speak to your tutor or lecturer about what support departments can offer to students on academic writing, they may put on special workshops or know where to find useful resources. Also, the University’s Centre for the Development of Academic Skills (CeDAS) offers various resources and support services.

Q: I’ve been accused of plagiarism, who can help me?

A: Being accused of academic misconduct can be an intimidating experience and we are here to support you through the process. See our dedicated page on academic misconduct.

Q: What are Collusion and Falsification?

A: Collusion is considered to be a form of academic misconduct. According to Assessment Regulations collusion is “to act in agreement with another person in order to obtain an unfair advantage for oneself and/or for that person." We know you may wish to work together on assessments as a group, however, this may constitute collusion if the discipline or the method of assessment requires independent study, and collective ideas are presented as uniquely those of the individual submitting the work. Collusion may also include any attempt to impersonate another person, or to allow oneself to be impersonated, in an assessment.

Falsification is when someone attempts to present data, results, references, and evidence that are altered or fictitious. This also includes the deliberate use of such materials.

Q: What about group work?

A: When it comes to group work, it’s vital to ensure that group members do not copy from one another. Care must be taken when working together and sharing ideas. It’s important to remember that there may be some overlap with points that are raised in assignments; however, it is expected that these are expressed in your own words to reflect your understanding of the assignment.

Even though you may be making the same points as others in your group, they should be articulated in your own style. If you have copied each other’s work and exactly the same points and language are used, it can lead to allegations of collusion.

Q: Can I use external agents to correct my grammar?

A: No, these services should not be used and are likely to be considered as collusion. External agents correct your work and in the process alter the ideas you have put forward, thus, writing parts of your assignment for you. This puts you at an unfair advantage when your work is assessed. If you feel you struggle with academic writing, then you may find it helpful to look at what other support CeDAS can offer you on their website. Also, seek guidance from your course handbook and your course tutor on this.  Finally, please remember that uploading your work onto these websites means you risk it being stolen and plagiarised, which can also lead to a collusion allegation.

Still have questions?

One of our advisors can help. Send us an email at advice@su.rhul.ac.uk and an advisor will be in touch soon with some guidance.