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Appendix 4 - Lancaster University Plagiarism Working Party
DEALING WITH PLAGIARISM BY STUDENTS
(approved by the Senate 28 May 2003 for implementation from 1 October 2003)
Lancaster 's academic enterprise is rooted in a culture of trust and integrity, and this underpins all aspects of the institution's teaching and learning strategy. Most students do not cheat - they are honest and hard working, and they rightly deserve the trust of their tutors. Cheating, which is a form of academic malpractice, is the exception not the norm.
But some students do cheat, in different ways and for different reasons. In order to be fair on those who don't and to protect the institution's academic reputation and credibility, procedures are required to reduce the likelihood of cheating, to detect when it is happening, and to deal with those found guilty of it. This paper deals specifically with plagiarism, which is a common form of cheating.
To what work does this framework apply?
This framework (and the sanctions within it) applies to all coursework submitted by students for examination by the University in all academic programmes other than research degrees. It does not apply to those degree schemes where the entire assessment is based on one submitted piece of work (eg MPhil, MSc by Research, and PhD). The attached regulations cover both coursework and examinations. The code covering cheating in examinations is consistent with Statute 21. Appendix A of the University regulations (Malpractice in undergraduate and postgraduate examinations and coursework) is attached.
Core values of academic integrity (honesty and trust) lie at the heart of our academic enterprise, and they underpin all activities within the University. The University values a culture of honesty and mutual trust, and it expects all members of the University to respect and uphold these core values at all times, in everything they do at, for and in the name of the University.
Academic integrity is important because, without honesty and trust, true academic discourse becomes impossible, learning is distorted and the evaluation of student progress and academic quality is seriously compromised. Consequently, the University is committed to:
Forms of cheating
Cheating, a form of academic malpractice, includes: cheating in examinations, plagiarism, duplication and false declaration.
Cheating in examinations: occurs when a candidate communicates, or attempts to communicate, with a fellow candidate or individual who is neither an invigilator or member of staff; copies, or attempts to copy from a fellow candidate; attempts to introduce or consult during the examination, any unauthorised printed or written material, or electronic calculating or information storage device; or mobile phones or other communication device, or personates or allows himself or herself to be impersonated.
Plagiarism: involves the unacknowledged use of someone else's work, usually in coursework, and passing it off as if it were his/her own. This category of cheating includes the following:
Fabrication of results: occurs when a student claims to have carried out tests, experiments or observations that have not taken place or presents results not supported by the evidence with the object of obtaining an unfair advantage.
Deliberate and inadvertent plagiarism
Some students who plagiarise do so deliberately, with intent to deceive. This conscious, pre-mediated form of cheating is regarded as a particularly serious breach of the core values of academic integrity and one of the worst forms of cheating, for which the University has zero tolerance.
Many students who plagiarise probably do so inadvertently, without realising it - because of inexperienced study skills, including note taking, referencing and citations. Many students (particularly those from different cultures and educational systems) find UK academic referencing/acknowledgement systems and conventions awkward, and proof-reading is not always easy for dyslexic students and some visually-impaired students.
However, ignorance of proper procedures or good practice in academic writing is no excuse, particularly if a student has previously been accused of plagiarism, advised to seek study skills help, and fails to learn the lessons.
Why is plagiarism a problem?
Plagiarism is a problem for four main reasons -
The University regards all forms of cheating as unacceptable, because they undermine the core values of academic integrity (honesty and trust). Each form of cheating is a breach of the University Regulations, and is liable to be pursued by appropriate disciplinary action.
A student who knowingly assists another student to plagiarise (for example by willingly giving them their own work to copy from) is guilty of academic malpractice, and will be dealt with under existing University Regulations.
Focus of prevention
In the context of plagiarism, prevention involves three key areas -
Components of prevention
Key components in the prevention strategy include -
The primary responsibility for detecting plagiarism in student work continues to rest with the individual marker, who should be alert to the possibility of finding plagiarism in students' work, and who must always use their specialist knowledge and academic judgement in deciding what is and what is not acceptable within that subject. For example, in many subjects it is difficult to decide what is common knowledge and what should be attributed to sources, which is where the marker's expert judgement is exercised.
Roles and Responsibilities
Each department or equivalent shall designate one senior academic member of staff, to be known as the Academic Officer, who shall take responsibility for the investigation of and subsequent action where appropriate for plagiarism in coursework at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. A deputy Academic Officer shall also be designated. The duties of the Academic Officer shall include reporting cases of plagiarism to the Student Registry, checking a student's plagiarism record held by the Student Registry, and keeping a written record of all cases of alleged plagiarism, including the evidence presented and the outcome.
Each academic marker identified as such by a department or equivalent shall be responsible for detecting and reporting on suspected plagiarism in coursework on cases for which they have marking responsibilities to the relevant Academic Officer, and for producing evidence in support of such a claim.
Designated members of the Student Registry shall be responsible for record-keeping for all alleged and detected cases of academic malpractice, including plagiarism in coursework and cheating in examinations. The duties of the officers, or approved alternates, will include keeping a written record of all cases, including reports from Academic Officers and from cases heard by the Standing Academic Committee, giving information and other support to Academic Officers to assist them in discharging their duties; communicating information between departments about academic malpractice as appropriate; and offering assistance to Academic Officers about the content of the warning letter appropriate to the stage reached.
LU Students' Union
Any student who is alleged to have been involved in an act of academic malpractice shall have access to LU Students' Union support and advice at all stages in the procedures that follow, and appropriate LUSU staff may accompany the student in any meetings or correspondence with the department or the Standing Academic Committee.
Standing Academic Committee
The Standing Academic Committee of the Senate shall:
Steps in the Procedure
The following steps shall be followed in the sequence set out below (as defined in the University Regulations, Appendix A, section 4.4.1). The steps may be concluded at any point in the procedure.
Scale of Penalties
First and second offences
The following scale of offences and related penalties shall be operated.
Third and fourth offences
(i) to permit the student to repeat the work, subject to receiving only the minimum pass mark appropriate to the piece of work;
(ii) to award zero for the work in question;
(iii) to award zero for the whole coursework or dissertation;
(iv) to award zero for the unit or course module;
(v) to award zero as under (iv) and, where the inclusion makes no difference to the class of award, to recommend that one class lower than the one determined by the arithmetic be awarded;
(vi) to exclude the student permanently from the university, where the offence is detected before the final assessment is completed;
(vii) not to award the degree, where the offence is detected after the final assessment has been completed.
The student shall have the right of appeal under Statute 21.
Ingredients of the Sanction System
To reinforce the importance of education and prevention within this overall strategy, students will be treated leniently for a first offence. The written feedback they receive (the 'warning letter' below), supported by the widely publicised, robust and consistently applied detection system, and the transparent, consistently applied and increasingly serious "ladder of sanctions" (below), are designed to educate and deter.
The warning letter
For each offence the student will be sent a standard, stage-specific, University letter which -
Evidence of plagiarism
In all cases, evidence must be provided by the marker to confirm that plagiarism has occurred. Where possible this should include the student's submitted work annotated and cross-referenced to original sources which have been plagiarised, accompanied by a hard copy of the original source (eg a print out of a source printed or web page, with complete URL and date viewed for web pages). For a first offence only, the evidence may take the form of a statement written by the student acknowledging that they have included plagiarised material in the submitted work.
Weighting of the assignment
Although there are arguments in favour of varying the sanctions depending on the relative weight of a piece of coursework within the overall assessment for a module, consistency and transparency of treatment for all plagiarism are paramount (for equity purposes, but also to reinforce prevention by deterrence).
Departments will be given some discretion in defining special status for particular assignments (particularly the dissertation, and particularly at Masters level), and for which the sanction system might be varied. All such cases, and the reasons for them, must be clearly documented in departmental or course handbooks.
Application and implications of the sanctions
Right to resit
In cases in which a student fails a module overall, because plagiarised work has been awarded a zero mark (second offence), the student forfeits the normal right of re-assessment in that module.
Multiple pieces of work
For the first offence only, if a student has submitted more than one piece of work for assessment at the same time, and plagiarism is detected in more than one of those pieces of work, this shall be defined as one "offence" (the first major offence). After the first offence, each piece of work in which plagiarism is detected will count as a separate offence.
"Second offence" means the next case of plagiarism to be confirmed after the student has received feedback on the consequences of the "first offence". "Third offence" and "Fourth offence" are defined relative to feedback from earlier cases of plagiarism.
Whilst a department has the right to retrospectively check for plagiarism in any coursework submitted by a student registered with the University, the sanctions should not normally be applied retrospectively (ie after it has been returned to the student). The University reserves the right to review work retrospectively, and apply appropriate sanctions, if there are reasonable grounds for doing so (eg whistle-blowing by fellow students). Existing University Regulations allow for the University to rescind or change the classification of a degree after it has been awarded.
The decisions and recommendations of the Final Exam Board will normally be regarded as the cut-off point beyond which allegations of plagiarism will not be considered, and past which no sanctions will normally be applied. If the plagiarism detection procedures are sufficiently robust, after an initial transition period (2 year max for most undergraduates) once this new framework is introduced, this should provide adequate security for the Final Exam Board decisions.
Right of appeal
If the student does not accept the decision of the Academic Officer (for first and second offences), s/he can opt to appear before the Standing Academic Committee. The burden of proof is on the University to show that plagiarism has occurred. In all cases in which exclusion is the penalty for plagiarism (ie third and fourth offences), the student has a statutory right of appeal under Statute 21.
Reporting of plagiarism histories
Each department will have discretion to decide whether plagiarism should be mentioned if a request is received (particularly from another University or a professional body) for an academic reference for a Lancaster graduate, or whether to report plagiarism to professional bodies
Amnesty on graduating
A Lancaster undergraduate with a record of plagiarism, who subsequently registers as a postgraduate student at Lancaster , will be given a 'plagiarism amnesty', for equity of treatment with other postgraduate students from elsewhere.
Chris Park on behalf of the Plagiarism Working Party
27 September 2005
THE UNIVERSITY OF LANCASTER
MALPRACTICE IN UNDERGRADUATE AND POSTGRADUATE EXAMINATIONS AND COURSEWORK
Approved by the Senate on 28 May 2003.
These regulations also form Appendix two of the Examination Regulations of the University and the appendix to Ordinance 7.
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