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CIPPET Study Support: University policy and penalties

This guide will help you find resources, understand academic and reflective writing and help you prepare for your coursework and exams

University of Reading statement on academic misconduct

The University has a detailed policy on academic misconduct - see the link below. This is an extract of the section covering plagiarism:

  1. For the purposes of these regulations, plagiarism is defined as the fraudulent representation of another's work as one's own. This applies whatever the source of the material (for example, a published source, the web, or the work of another), whether the material is copied word for word or paraphrased, and whatever the extent of the material used. Wilful and deliberate disregard for good academic practice in respect of attribution of material will be construed as plagiarism. [Please note that programme handbooks normally provide discipline-specific advice on the appropriate use and attribution of source material].
  2. Taking a copy of another student's work without his or her permission (whether or not this work is subsequently plagiarised).
  3. Reproduction of work assessed elsewhere
    Unless otherwise stated, it is not permissible for a piece of work submitted for assessment to include substantial sections which are drawn from another piece of work submitted for a qualification, whether of this University or another awarding body. In the case of assessments where the incorporation of work from another assessment is permitted, the relevant School will inform students accordingly. Any material in an assignment which has been drawn from another piece of work submitted for a qualification should be clearly indicated with a reference to the assessment and qualification for which the material was previously submitted.
  4. Falsifying signatures, data, evidence, or experimental results.
  5. Collusion: acting with another student with the intention to deceive. This extends to the act of covering up or making untrue or misleading statements on behalf of another student regarding the act or commission of an act of academic misconduct.
  6. Contracting to cheat: commissioning a third party (e.g: essay mill/ghost-writer/dissertation writing company/family member/friend/another student) to produce an assessment which is then submitted. Please note that payment of any kind need not have been requested or made.
  7. Acting as an intermediary for another student to commission a third party as above. Acting as an intermediary may cover acting as a "middle person" to aid or facilitate another student to contract to cheat. It could also extend to recommending or signposting another student to a company or website knowing that the student intended to contract to cheat. This is a disciplinary offence which is actionable under the University's Disciplinary Policy as a breach of the Regulations for Student Conduct.

[Extract from the April 2020 statement]

Penalties for plagiarism

Universities classify plagiarism as ‘ academic misconduct’. Where attempts have been made to avoid plagiarism but this has been inadequate, the term used is ‘poor academic practice’. In addition, Universities provides formal procedures for determining whether a penalty should be applied and the level of that penalty.

Take a look at the table of penalties applied for plagiarism on page 24 of the Academic Integrity and Academic Misconduct section of the Assessment handbook. These are clearly serious actions and in most cases the actual offence is minor and only limited action would be taken – usually near the bottom of the table.

It is worth noting that the last seven items on page 24 list the SDTL (School Director of Teaching & Learning) as the ‘Competent Body’. All suspected cases of plagiarism (whether ‘academic misconduct’ or ‘poor academic practice’) are referred to the SDTL to ensure that a consistent and fair policy is adopted.

As can be seen from the table, more serious cases are referred upwards through the University’s committees. Where the matter is considered ‘poor academic practice’, then the School applies an agreed set of common penalties. Where it is considered that plagiarism has occurred, with a classification of ‘Academic Misconduct’, then the detailed University guidance is followed which could result in a mark of zero for the submission or, for more serious cases, one of the more severe penalties indicated in the table.

A realistic approach

We do appreciate that students are here to learn both the scientific basis of their degree and how to act in a professional manner when presenting work. The above penalties are therefore graded to impose only a minor penalty when the ‘plagiarism’ is considered more a failure to understand how to prepare the submission rather than a deliberate attempt to obtain marks using other people’s work.

We also recognise that students need to learn about plagiarism and to get appropriate feedback when work is considered to contain unacceptable material. However you should also note that we do record cases when one of the above penalties (including a ‘ Borderline Poor Academic Practice’ warning) has been applied and this will be taken into account in assessing any future submissions suspected of plagiarism.