Steer Clear of Academic Misconduct

With alternative assessments in place and coursework also still being written, there is a chance you are now writing more than ever before.

During this time we, at the Advice Centre, are still here to support you throughout your studies. In this article, we will give you guidance on how to avoid academic misconduct and advise you around what you should do if you receive an accusation of alleged academic misconduct.

What is academic misconduct?

Academic misconduct is anything which 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 without adequately identifying it.
  • Commissioning - the use of a third party to do your work.
  • Duplication - unacknowledged or unauthorised replication of your work.
  • Falsification - unacknowledged invention or alteration of data, quotes or references.
  • Collusion - for example where collective ideas are presented as uniquely belonging to the individual.  

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 will be invited to a panel. You can read more about academic misconduct panels in an article written by your VP Education Kate Roberts here.

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.

Working in your home environment can be incredibly hard and distracting. It may not be how you have worked before but we would highly recommend referencing as you write. As you find your sources, make a note and start compiling your bibliography right away, put those quotation marks in immediately. Putting quoted text in a different colour while working can also help. With so many distractions accidents can happen too; unfortunately accidental plagiarism (e.g. insufficient referencing/citing) still counts as academic misconduct and could lead to an investigation.

Without access to physical books, a lot of your sources will become online journals and online excerpts from books. Please note these sources as you go. Using ideas and information from these sites and not disclosing them will lead to a high Turnitin percentage match and an academic misconduct investigation.

Avoid sharing your work with your classmates. You might have a friend asking you for help with their assignment. Please do not feel tempted to send them yours as an example. I know it sounds obvious, but if any of your work appears in their work, you will both be investigated for collusion.

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 and it should be your first port of call over and above any temptation to break academic integrity.

  • If you have a sudden reason that means you cannot submit your best work on time, there are extensions and extenuating circumstances processes here to support you.
  • 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 in order to try avoiding the stressed panic a few days before your deadline.
  • 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 it if you are accused of it and what other support is available, there is more valuable information and FAQs here.

If you find yourself accused of academic misconduct you can seek advice from the Advice Centre. Simply email advice@su.rhul.ac.uk. An Advisor will be able to talk you through your accusation, why your work was flagged, and help prepare you for responding to the allegation. If an Advisor is available, they can also accompany you to the investigative panel meeting for support.

The Advice Centre is a free, independent and confidential service for all students here at Royal Holloway. Our friendly, experienced and professional staff will provide a listening ear and offer general and specialist advice. We’re here to support you with a whole range of issues, big and small, and if we’re not the best people to help you with a particular issue, we’ll point you in the right direction.

Email us at advice@su.rhul.ac.uk with any questions or to ask for a phone appointment.