Steer Clear of Academic Misconduct

Our Advisors have put together some guidance on how to ensure you don't fall foul of any academic misconduct offenses when completing your assessments.

Whether you’re new to university, or still getting back into the swing of your studies, it’s important to be aware of what academic misconduct is, how to avoid it, and what to do if you receive an allegation.

What is academic misconduct?

Academic misconduct is anything that is against the rules which govern the assessment of work and includes things like plagiarism, commissioning and collusion.

A summary of the types of assessment offence this might include are:

  • Plagiarism - the presentation of another person’s work as your own, without proper attribution or reference. This can be intentional or unintentional.
  • Commissioning - the use of a third party to do your work.
  • Duplication - unacknowledged or unauthorised replication of your own work.
  • Falsification - unacknowledged invention or alteration of data, quotes or references.
  • Collusion - working with another student to produce work.

When you submit your academic work, it often goes through a program called Turnitin. This is a text-matching software that indicates whether what you are submitting matches something that has already been written, whether that be by someone else or work previously submitted by yourself.

If your work comes back with a high percentage of matched text from either one or multiple sources and there is suspicion of academic misconduct, you will receive a written report which sets out the specific allegation, including relevant evidence, and you may be invited to a panel. You can read more about academic misconduct panels on our Academic Rights Hub.

How can I avoid this?

We have recently seen a rise in the advertisement of ‘proofreading’ services - these are commissioning sites in disguise. You can see in the list above that commissioning is an academic offence so please avoid these sites at all costs. Additionally, online ‘plagiarism checkers’ are unreliable and inaccurate, and there is a risk that the information that you put into them - your academic writing - could be misused or stolen.

 In order to avoid plagiarism, we would highly recommend referencing as you write. As you find your sources, make a note and start compiling your bibliography right away, and put those quotation marks in immediately. Putting quoted text in a different colour while working can also help. If you’re taking notes to work from later, make sure not to copy text from textbooks, or even lecture slides, verbatim without making a note of where they came from. It’s easy to forget where you got some information from, but unfortunately, accidental plagiarism (e.g. insufficient referencing/citing) still counts as academic misconduct and could lead to an investigation.

Avoid sharing your work with your classmates. You might have a friend asking you for help with their assignment but please do not feel tempted to send them yours as an example. If any of your work appears in their work, you will both be investigated for collusion, regardless of who shared work with who.

Duplication, or plagiarism of your own work, can be a little more confusing to understand. The key thing to remember is that it’s expected each piece of work you submit is unique, so you cannot, for example, copy a paragraph from an essay you have submitted earlier in the year as part of an exam answer on the same topic. If your previous piece of work has gone through Turnitin, it is part of the database of student work it checks new submissions against, and any similarities will be picked up and investigated.  

We know that some cases are accidental, but academic integrity is of utmost importance and therefore investigated if misconduct is suspected. You have a duty as a student here at Royal Holloway to uphold the rules and regulations you have signed up to.

What if I am worried about upholding academic integrity?

We understand that putting your best into your work may not always be feasible for a number of different reasons and that everyone needs a little support from time to time. You can access this support from a number of places.

  • If you have a sudden reason that means you cannot submit your best work on time, there are processes here to support you - find out about how to apply for extensions and extenuating circumstances.
  • If you are struggling with an assignment, you can reach out to your course leader, personal tutor or to CeDAS (Centre for the Development of Academic Skills) for support and guidance. CeDAS offers free lectures, workshops, drop-ins and 1:1 tutorials on a range of key academic skills, including academic writing and communication, maths and numeracy skills, and English skills for international students. As soon as you feel these resources could support you, please reach out to them.
  • If you are worried about understanding how to reference correctly, again you can contact your personal tutor or the library for guidance. Every student will also be enrolled on a Moodle course called ‘Avoiding Plagiarism’ that will provide guidance on correct referencing.

Further support

If you want to learn more about academic misconduct, how to avoid it, what to do if you are accused of it and what other support is available, there is more information and detailed FAQs on the Student Intranet.

If you find yourself accused of academic misconduct you can seek advice from the Advice Centre. Simply email advice@su.rhul.ac.uk and an Advisor will be in touch to explain the process and help prepare you for responding to the allegation. If an Advisor is available, they can also accompany you to the panel meeting for support. You can read more about what to expect at an academic misconduct panel on our Academic Rights Hub.