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Academic Misconduct and Plagiarism

The University of Warwick defines academic misconduct as follows:

Academic misconduct are acts or omissions by a student which give or have the potential to give an unfair advantage in an examination or assessment, or might assist someone else to gain an unfair advantage, or an activity likely to undermine the integrity essential to scholarship and research. (Regulation 11)

Academic misconduct requires the intention to obtain an unfair advantage, or knowingly engaging in a behaviour that has the potential to give an unfair advantage, irrespective of whether such advantage is actually obtained. (Regulation 11)

The most recognised form of academic misconduct is plagiarism. Warwick defines plagiarism as 'presenting someone else's work or ideas as the student's own' (Regulation 11 - see further down this page for links to this and other resources).

Note that this definition includes self-plagiarism. You may not reproduce work that you have already presented for a summative piece or dissertation. Formative work, as long as it is your own, does not fall under this category.

This definition applies to all assessed work, including but not limited to essay plans, essays, exams, podcasts, blogs and other digital formats.

The reproduction of work includes the following:

  • copying, i.e., repeating phrases or sentences word-for-word
  • modifying, i.e., closely paraphrasing another's work by simply changing a few words or altering the order of presentation
  • borrowing, i.e., presenting another person’s ideas or concepts as your own, even if you do so in your own words

Improper acknowledgement includes the failure to:

  • put quote-marks around text that has been quoted verbatim from another source, even if you have cited the source in a footnote or in the bibliography
  • cite the source of quoted text, even if you have put the text in quote-marks
  • cite the source of text that you have closely paraphrased from another source
  • cite the source of ideas or concepts that you have borrowed from another source

Other Forms of Academic Misconduct

Further to plagiarism, other kinds of academic misconduct include, but are not limited to:

  • Contract Cheating. You may not purchase or ask another person to complete assessed work or sit an exam in your place. Always acknowledge any third party assistance (beyond that of your tutor), for example with proof reading or providing references. If you are unclear whether any third party assistance is acceptable please discuss with your academic or personal tutor in advance of submitting the piece of work.
  • Collusion. If you allow another student to copy some or all of your work, even if you consider this is helping them, you may be considered to have cheated alongside the student who copied the work. Whilst the Department encourages students to work together and read each other’s work, all work submitted should be the student’s own.
  • Collusion in examinations. The rule about collusion is stricter for examinations than for other coursework. In examinations, collusion occurs whenever students have during the exam contact with another student sitting that exam or another person, and such contact relates at least partially to the subject of the examination. This includes contact through any media (phone, websites, question boards, forums, social media, etc.) as well as face-to-face contact. Take-home assessments are treated as examinations for the purposes of plagiarism.

  • Deliberate attempts to mask plagiarism. The Department may ask for work to be presented in other formats if it suspects students are deliberately trying to mask one of the forms of plagiarism identified above.

Possible Penalties for Academic Misconduct

Penalties for academic misconduct depend on the severity of the offence and can include the following:

  • reduced or zero mark for the piece of work in which the plagiarism occurred
  • re-submission of the work with revised referencing, for a reduced or capped mark
  • re-submission of a new piece of work for a reduced or capped mark
  • revocation of an academic award or honour to which the work contributed

In the History Department, the great majority of cases of cheating are dealt with in one of the first three ways.

Poor Academic Practice

Warwick distinguishes between academic misconduct and poor academic practice. Poor academic practice is less serious than academic misconduct, but should be avoided nonetheless:

Poor academic practice is the failure to observe principles of academic integrity. It typically (but not exclusively) occurs when referencing is inadequate, but not in a way suggesting that the student attempted to gain an unfair advantage. (Regulation 11)

Poor academic practice should be used where the extent of plagiarism or other misconduct is limited. It can be used in particular at earlier stages of a student’s degree, when they might only have an imperfect understanding of the principles of academic integrity. It can be found, e.g., where a student has referenced the material used but not indicated that it is a verbatim quote. (Guidance on Regulation 11)

Note, however, that the example given at the end of this quote is a guide only. An essay that contains multiple or extensive examples of verbatim quotes without quote-marks may well be a case of academic misconduct rather than poor academic practice.

The penalty for poor academic practice, as opposed to academic misconduct, is normally that the piece of work in question receives lower marks in line with the normal marking schedule. There is no fixed number of marks that are deducted for poor academic practice; these marks are simply not earned under the marking criteria. In such cases, the overall mark for the piece of work is determined by the marker using their academic judgment.

Procedure in Cases of Suspected Academic Misconduct

Cases of suspected academic misconduct are identified by markers in the first instance, usually with the help of the Turnitin software (see below). The marker may judge that a piece of work counts as poor academic practice, in which case they will mark the work as usual, taking the poor practice into account in their mark and/or feedback.

The marker may instead judge that the case is more serious, in which case they will refer the case to the Academic Conduct Panel, which is made up of staff from the department. Members of the panel examine the case and make an initial judgment about whether it is a) poor academic practice or b) academic misconduct.

If a), the work is returned to the marker, who marks it using their academic judgment, as explained above. If b), the student is notified that they are under investigation for academic misconduct, and is asked to meet the Chair of the panel to discuss the case. The Chair then decides which penalty to impose and informs the student of this decision.

Turnitin Software

The History department uses third-party software called 'Turnitin' to detect plagiarism in student essays. All summative essays submitted on Tabula are run through this software. The software compares each essay to a database of other essays submitted at Warwick and at other universities in the UK and around the world. It also compares the essay to a range of other sources, from scholarly articles to blog posts. Essays that receive a high score on Turnitin are then scrutinised by the marker to check whether plagiarism has indeed taken place. Markers can also identity cases of plagiarism in essays that receive a relatively low Turnitin score. In sum, Turnitin is a tool that markers use in conjunction with their own judgment.


Training and Resources for Avoiding Academic Misconduct

All students in History are required to complete the Avoiding Plagiarism Moodle course at the beginning of each year. This is designed for students in any discipline. Once you have completed the course, please download the certificate and upload it to Tabula so there is a record that you have done the training. The deadline for uploading your certificate to Tabula is Friday 13 October 2023. Please note that the completion of the training and uploading of the certificate constitutes a monitoring point.

In addition, the History department offers the following history-specific resources for understanding plagiarism:

University-wide Resources for Avoiding Academic Misconduct

The University’s regulations on academic misconduct are contained in University Regulation 11, Academic Integrity.

More detailed guidance on how to implement these regulations is in the Guidance on Regulation 11.

The University also has a Proofreading Policy that sets out what the University considers to be appropriate with regards to proofreading and what checks should be in place when proofreading is undertaken.

Other resources for students are available on the Academic Integrity page.

Artificial Intelligence and Academic Misconduct

Artificial Intelligence (AI), particularly AI-based generative language tools such as ChatGPT, has had a lot of media attention in recent months. The University recognises that AI is here to stay and may be relevant in your completing of assessments. This guidance will help you to understand when it is appropriate (or not) to use AI.

Non-generative AI tools, such as spelling-checkers or basic grammar-checkers, have been widely used for many years. For instance, Microsoft Word telling you that you have misspelled a word is not going to lead to accusations that you have used AI tools inappropriately!

However, AI-based generative language tools (e.g., ChatGPT), are different from non-generative tools. Generative AI tools are trained to produce a human-like response from pre-existing large data sets (e.g., websites, journals, textbooks, etc.), by responding to requests to generate an outcome which is not necessarily correct, despite often sounding authoritative.

We know that this can be confusing, and you may be unsure what it means for you. A good simple rule to follow is that you MUST NOT use generative AI tools (e.g., ChatGPT) to create content which is presented as your own work. You MAY use non-generative tools, such as a spelling-checker or basic grammar-checker. The most important thing to remember is that you must be able to demonstrate intellectual ownership of your work. If you have further questions, you can speak with your Personal Tutor or Year Director.

Generative AI tools undoubtedly possess great potential, but they must be treated with caution as there are various issues and dangers with using them. For example, these are some illuminating examples of the possible dangers of using AI for research: Ned Benton, ‘Artificial Intelligence and Slavery Research’. Also, AI has a tendency to simply invent things but present them as fact – such as these 4 different world record holders for apparently crossing the English Channel entirely on foot…!

The inappropriate use of AI technology may constitute a breach of University policy, such as the Proofreading Policy or Regulation 11 (Academic Integrity). If you breach these policies, it may have significant consequences for your studies.

The History department’s current position is that the use of AI is permitted in a limited number of situations, and it MUST always be used in a responsible and open manner. Where AI has been used, the reason for its use MUST be stated, any output MUST be clearly identified in the submission, and you MUST be able to demonstrate intellectual ownership of the work.

For instance, it is possible to use AI to help you understand complex concepts by explaining them to you in simpler terms. Similarly, AI may help in preparing for an assessment, e.g., creating essay plans to help organise your thoughts – although it’s likely that your own structure may well be better!

While translating source material is permitted (if properly referenced), using AI to rewrite or translate text that you have drafted is NOT permitted as this is prohibited by the University’s Proofreading Policy. It is important that you develop your own ‘academic voice’, and markers would much prefer to read imperfect English in your ‘voice’ than perfect English written by someone (or something) else.

Of course, AI should NOT be used to create content which is presented as your own work – this is plagiarism.

AI tools should NOT be used to:

  • Replace learning. We should all value our stream of consciousness and being sentient!
  • Gain an unfair advantage. This is academic misconduct.
  • Create content which is presented as your own work. This is plagiarism.
  • Synthesise information. You will not be able to demonstrate your work and thinking, as opposed to that which is artificially generated.
  • Rewrite work or translate your own drafted text. This is prohibited by the University’s Proofreading Policy.

If a generative AI has been used in the process of completing an assessment, you MUST clearly state in your submission:

  • WHY you used a generative AI;
  • WHAT it was used for;
  • WHICH AI and what prompts were used;

Appropriate use of AI will not result in any penalty, but your marker may comment on your use of it.

Inappropriate use of AI may constitute a breach of University policy. If you breach these policies, it may have significant consequences for your studies – for instance, your work may be referred to the Academic Conduct Panel for investigation as Plagiarism or Poor Academic Practice.

You will also have to confirm in your declaration of originality at the point of submission that the work remains yours and you have intellectual ownership of it. You may be called for viva or other interview to demonstrate such intellectual ownership. A failure to disclose the use of AI, or the use of a misleading description of its use, may have significant consequences for your studies and may be prejudicial in any later Academic Misconduct investigations should they arise. As a result, you are advised to keep good records such as screengrabs of any interactions you have with generative AI, in case you are requested to explain further how and why it was used.