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How to avoid Academic Misconduct

The following resources can help you to better understand the importance of academic integrity and how to avoid academic misconduct.

How to avoid Plagiarism in group work?

Collaboration is a key component of your education because:

  • peer-to-peer learning helps you understand the subject better.
  • working in teams trains you for collaborative work you will do in your profession.
  • crediting others for their contribution to your work promotes ethical practice.

By working with other students on projects, labs and papers, you carry on a long tradition of contributing to the knowledge that will shape the future of our world.

However, when it comes to the development of an assignment it is important that you are clear whether it is intended to be an individual or group assignment. Group projects or assignments may incorporate the evaluation of your collaboration or team working skills as well as the work that you produce as a group. If your individual contribution is to be assessed separately make sure you know how this is to be done, and then do it honestly. It is considered plagiarism to falsely claim authorship without contribution or to attribute authorship to group members who failed to contribute. You can avoid plagiarism in group work by:

  • Complying with academic writing conventions in any work that you contribute towards the group assessment
  • Ensuring that you have read the contributions by other members of the group and that their work complies with academic writing conventions, since you will be claiming co-authorship
  • Behaving honestly with regards to the individual contribution that you and others make towards the group assessment
  • Discussing with teaching staff when you are not able to equally contribute to a group assessment task.

The line between appropriate and inappropriate collaboration (collusion) can be confusing. Collusion should not be mistaken for collaboration. Collaboration involves shared contribution towards a group task. Collusion is an agreement made with another person to deceive others. In academic work, it can occur if you work together with others on an assignment that is meant to be individual work (also referred to as ‘collaborating too closely’). It can also occur when you assist another student to complete an assignment contrary to instructions. The result may be that each of you submits a very similar piece of work without admitting to the collaboration. It is acceptable to get help from or provide help to others, and to discuss ideas and strategies, but you should only take notes and then independently complete your assignment. This will prevent too many similarities in your work and reduce the possibility of being accused of cheating. If you are at all unsure about how much collaboration is permitted, ask the instructor. Don't assume you know what is allowed and be aware that the amount of collaboration permitted may vary from instructor to instructor.

Checklist for group submissions

  1.  All team members have referenced and footnoted all ideas, words, or other intellectual property from other sources used in the completion of this
  2. A proper bibliography has been included, which includes acknowledgement of all sources used to complete this assignment.
  3. This is the first time that any member of the group has submitted this assignment or essay (either partially or entirely) for academic evaluation.
  4. Each member of the group has read the full content of the submission and is assured that the content is free of violations of academic integrity. Group discussions regarding the importance of academic integrity have taken place.
  5. All team members have identified their individual contributions to the work submitted such that if violations of academic integrity are suspected, then the student(s) primarily responsible for the violations may be identified. Note that the remainder of the team may also be subject to disciplinary.

How do I produce original work?

One of the challenges of good scholarship is to take what has already been done, said, or argued, and incorporating it into your work in an original way.

To some students, this task may seem unnecessarily redundant: A student writing a paper on the benefits of stem cell research may ask, “If the positive aspects of this research have already been argued, why do I need to do it again?” The answer is that:

  • By doing research on your subject, you become more familiar with existing scholarly work, which in turn can provide models for your own writing
  • Your way of presenting the information and arguing it will be different from that of others and is therefore valuable; and
  • As more recent information on your subject becomes available, you have the opportunity to bring this information into your report or argument, adding new dimensions to the discussion.

Sometimes the goals of academic writing may seem contradictory.

On the one hand, we ask you to: But also to:
Find what is written on a topic and report it, demonstrating you have done your research. Write about the topic in an original way.
Bring in opinions of experts and authorities. Do more than simply report them; comment on these opinions, add to them, agree or disagree with them.
Notice articulate phrasing and learn from it, especially if you are trying to enhance your capability in English. Use your own words to paraphrase accurately or quote directly when you incorporate this into a paper.

Academic writing is a challenge. It demands that you build on work done by others but create something original from it. By acknowledging where you have used the ideas, work, or words of others, you maintain your academic integrity and uphold the standards of the Institute and of the discipline in which you work.

(Adapted from: Overview and Contradictions, Purdue University OWL Online Writing Lab. Retrieved July 2019.)

For assistance and support, contact Study Smarter

How to identify a contract cheating website

Using an online service provider to help with your assignments might seem like a quick solution, but it can come at a huge cost. You could face academic consequences affecting your study progression, future employment prospects, or losing the respect of your friends, family and teachers.

Tips to help identify contract cheating sites

  1. Sites asking for payment to complete assignment work for you
  2. Assurances they offer good quality writers/writing
  3. An ‘Order’ button
  4. Prices linked to assignment length and completion times
  5. Attempts to justify why buying assignments might be okay
  6. Testimonials from ‘customers’, often accompanied by stock photos of people who aren’t real students
  7. Guarantees of plagiarism-free work
  8. The need to create a personal account and log in
  9. Numerous nearly identical sites with different domain names
  10. Terms of service that disclaim responsibility if you’re caught submitting work from the site
  11. Various service guarantees such as 24/7 support, live chat, feedback, money back if unsatisfied

Some scenarios illustrating plagiarism

  • Scenario 1


    It is your first year in university and your History instructor asks you to write an essay/paper on a specific topic that has been discussed in class. While researching the topic, you find information in several books but you also find information on the internet. When writing your essay, you use text/sections from your books and the internet. However, you forget whether the sources you used came from your books or the internet. You also forget which books provided you with certain pieces of information. You are confused and unsure of whether this would be a problem but you decide to proceed since your paper is due in two days. You do your best to use citations while guessing the appropriate book used and relevant page of the information you found. However, you fail to cite what you found on the internet. You submit the essay for credit in the History course. Is this plagiarism?


    Yes. You cannot cite information if you are unsure of whether it belongs to a specific source and simply guess page numbers from a book. It is important to recognize the appropriate author of each source in order to maintain academic integrity and respect the hard work of scholars who have provided you with valuable knowledge. Websites also offer tons of information but it is important to make sure any website used is an academically reliable source and cited in your paper. You cannot present someone else's work as your own in any situation; even if you are unable to locate the name of the author. In this instance, if you fail to cite your sources appropriately, you may be penalised for plagiarism./p>

  • Scenario 2


    Lisa’s Computer Science assignment, worth 40% of her mark, is due on Friday and she has yet to begin her research. She is busy juggling a part-time job and school work while taking care of her younger siblings at home. It is difficult for her to find time to work on her assignment so she asks her friend Rena if she can provide her with a copy of an old assignment which Rena previously submitted in the course in another academic term. This is especially easy because Lisa’s approved outline reflects the same topic as Rena’s and she has done most of the research required. Rena sends Lisa a copy of her assignment but cautions her to use it only as a reference and not to copy her work. Lisa is nervous about approaching her instructor to ask for an extension since the deadline is drawing near. Therefore, in order to submit her paper on time, Lisa decides to use most of Rena’s paper in her written work by claiming it as her own and submits it. Is this plagiarism?


    Yes. Since Lisa decides to use Rena’s work as her own, she is committing an academic offence. The importance of producing original work is not only to prevent academic misconduct but also to maintain intellectual creativity as an individual. The instructor will be able to identify Rena’s assignment using and both of the students will be approached about the issue.

  • Scenario 3


    Joe has almost completed his essay for English 101. He needs to write 250 more words to complete his assignment requirement. He finds a lengthy paragraph from a book and pastes into his essay. He does cites the article, but did not include quotation marks to the paragraph he pasted from another source. Is this plagiarism?


    Yes, Providing a proper citation without quotation marks is not enough and is academic dishonesty.

  • Scenario 4


    Al finds a review of Shakespeare’s The Tempest that was written in 1910. He recently learned that anything first published before 1923 exists in the public domain and is therefore not subject to copyright law. In his review of The Tempest, Al uses much of the analysis from the 1910 review without citing it. Is this plagiarism.


    Yes. Do not confuse copyright and citation. Even if something exists in the public domain for others to use freely, students are required to cite it.

  • Scenario 5


    A number of students within a subject formed a Facebook group and Messenger thread during semester. During the exam, which was to be completed individually and not as a group exercise, members of the group used the message thread to seek and provide answers to exam questions. Is this misconduct?


    Yes. This is collusion. Remember, if a peer asks you for answers to an assessment, remember that you are placing yourself at risk of academic misconduct by helping them. Do not share answers or advice during an assessment or an any other occasion unless collaboration is expected of you in an assessment task. If you are aware of students inappropriately colluding, you have the responsibility to inform the Unit coordinator.

  • Scenario 6


    Through his PhD candidature, Tom has received poor feedback about his English language proficiency. It is close to submitting his final thesis and so Tom decided to employ an editor to check his electronic draft thesis. The editor did their job by using ‘track changes’ in Microsoft Word to identify issues and mistakes with his grammar, sentence construction, etc. When Tom received the draft thesis with ‘track changes’, he used the function ‘Accept all changes in document’ to finalise the thesis and submit it for examination. Is this plagiarism?


    Yes, if the edited piece is substantially different from Tom’s original submission. If the editor’s work resulted in the production of a thesis that was no longer the student’s original work, then submitting it with a wholesale ‘Accept all changes’ is plagiarism.

Authorial Responsibility

Proofreading represents the final stage of producing a piece of academic writing. The University believes that students should be encouraged to proofread their own work, since this is an essential skill in the academic writing process. However, it is recognised that in some instances it is appropriate for some students to seek the help of a third party for proofreading (editor). Such third parties can be professional proof-readers, professional editors, fellow students, friends or family members.

Professional editors, as part of their usual role in document production, often make changes within the document. However, as a student submitting your work for assessment, accepting the changes of an editor may be seen as plagiarism as you are claiming the work of someone else as your own.

The difference between ethical essay proof-reading and cheating:

  Cheating if proof-reader Ethical if proof-reader
Research Performs research and adds insight into the student’s work Does not perform any additional research or add new insights
Factual inaccuracies Rewrites any sections of text that are factually inaccurate Highlights areas of the discussion that may require fact checking
Response to question/prompt Answers the essay prompt for the student. Changes discussion to better answer a question. Points out where there may be problems with the response to the prompt but does not solve issues
Structure Significantly restructures the whole essay Helps to ensure the paper is formatted in a professional and polished manner
Citations Adds additional citations and references Highlights citation errors or lack of appropriate citation. Formats citations where permitted.
Language use Changes the voice and style of the paper Points out any material/language that is inappropriate; for instance, use of slang terms or derogatory descriptions of the work of others
Cohesion Changes the main analysis or arguments that underpin the discussion Comments on any arguments that do not make sense in the context of the rest of the paper

Students have overall authorial responsibility for their work and should choose whether they wish to accept the proof-reader’s advice. It is therefore preferable that students’ work be proofread electronically by means of tracked changes and comments, though handwritten annotations on hard copy are also permissible. Students should note that the use of a proof-reader will not be accepted in mitigation of any deficiencies in their work.

If you plan to use an editor for your PhD thesis it is recommended that you:

  • Discuss your desire to use an editor with your supervisor before approaching an editor
  • Discuss the scope of the edit with your supervisor and ensure that the editor understands and agrees to apply this when reviewing your document
  • Indicate within the appropriate section of your theses that an editor was used and include a description of the scope of the edit
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