plagiarism and collusion

Academic writing can be tough at the best of times, let alone if you don't have much experience of it before coming to UEA. Sometimes this can lead to unwittingly making mistakes with referencing and paraphrasing or unintentionally sharing ideas with your friends when studying together.

This can lead to issues with plagiarism and collusion and it's important to remember you don't have to have intended to cheat to fall foul of plagiarism and collusion. Below we set out what plagiarism and collusion are, what you should do if this has become an issue and how we can support you.

What is plagiarism?

The university policy defines plagiarism as:

(a) The reproduction without acknowledgement, of work (including the work of fellow students), published or un-published, either verbatim or in close paraphrase. In this context, the work of others includes material downloaded from computer files and the internet, discussions in seminars, ideas, text and diagrams from lecture hand-outs.

(b) Poor academic practice which is unintentional.

(c) The reproduction, without acknowledgement, of a student’s own previously submitted work.

Plagiarism can happen in ‘open-book’ examinations and/or coursework assessments including essays, reports, presentations, dissertations and projects.

What is collusion?

Collusion is a form of plagiarism involving unauthorised co-operation between at least two people. It does not include assessments which are designed to be collaborative that are undertaken in line with published requirements. The university policy says that collusion can take the following forms:

(a) The conspiring by two or more students to produce a piece of work together with the intention that at least one passes it off as his or her own work.

(b) The submission by a student of the work of another student, in circumstances where the latter has willingly lent the former the work and where it should be evident that the recipient of the work is likely to submit it as their own. In this case both students are guilty of collusion.

(c) Unauthorised co-operation between a student and another person in the preparation and production of work which is presented as the student’s own.

(d) The commissioning and submission of work as the student’s own where the student has purchased or solicited another individual to produce work on the student’s behalf. This would include submitting an essay downloaded from an ‘essay mill’ or commissioning someone to write your essay for you.

The university uses plagiarism detection software called ‘Turnitin’ to investigate suspected cases of plagiarism/collusion.

I’ve been accused of plagiarism and/or collusion, what will happen?

If a marker suspects Plagiarism or Collusion they will continue to mark the work as if it is not plagiarised. They will keep a separate copy of the annotated work as evidence and collect evidence for the school Plagiarism officer (“PO”) to review. Evidence could include the original material which has been used or copied and/or a report from ‘Turnitin’.

The PO may look at other work you have completed on your course.

The PO then reviews the evidence and decides whether the plagiarism is of a low, medium or high level.

In low-level cases, the PO may decide not to call a meeting and will instead suggest an appropriate learning package. You can still request a meeting if you would prefer.

If they think that the issue isn't low-level, you will receive a letter inviting you to a plagiarism meeting to consider your case. With this letter, you will usually receive a copy of the ‘Turnitin’ report and an annotated copy of the work in question so that you can see the areas of concern.

This meeting is to establish what has happened and why. You'll be given the opportunity to explain why you think there has been an issue and let the School know of any extenuating circumstances that have been affecting you. You do not have to go it alone, we can attend this meeting with you and provide you with support.

Possible outcomes.

Low-level cases:

The plagiarism officer will not impose a mark penalty and, in certain circumstances, you may be given the opportunity to resubmit the work as if for the first time, no later than 5 working days after the decision is made.

Medium-level - plagiarism:

The mark is adjusted to reflect what is your own work. For a formative item of assessment, the offence should be recorded as a medium level plagiarism offence.

Medium-level - collusion:

Where two or more students have worked together and it is impossible to determine who has produced the work, the pieces of work will be marked as they stand and the highest mark of those awarded will be divided equally

High-level cases:

Penalties vary depending on whether the offence is part of serial plagiarism and/or collusion.  They can include being given a mark of 0. All high-level offences are referred to the Senate Student Discipline Committee (SSDC) for further action. Where your course is part of a professional qualification, the Head of School may refer your case to a Fitness to Practise Panel.

How can advice(su) help me?

Our advice team here are experienced and have a wealth of knowledge in supporting students who have been called to a plagiarism/collusion meeting. 

In your appointment, your advice worker will discuss with you all of the options open to you and provide you with their advice on what course of action you should take. They can support you in any meetings and help you find the right language to respond to concerns raised. You do not have to face this alone - we are here for you.

More information

You can find our full guide to plagiarism and collusion here.

The full university policy can be found here.