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Academic integrity and plagiarism

Understanding plagiarism and academic malpractice

It is your responsibility to ensure your own work meets the University’s standards for academic integrity.

You can find support and advice on this from the Library, your tutors, and the Student Advice Centre.

The University also has the responsibility to make sure that nobody gains an unfair advantage in any assessment, to maintain the value of your education. This means that suspected cases of academic malpractice are taken seriously and will be investigated.

Plagiarism and other forms of academic malpractice

While you might be familiar with plagiarism, there are other forms of academic malpractice that might be less familiar to you. The following guide will help you to understand different forms of academic malpractice and will highlight the good academic practices that will help you to avoid these.

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is the presentation of someone else’s work as if it were your own, regardless of whether you do so intentionally or of how much unacknowledged material you use. “Work” means any intellectual output, and can include text, data, images, sound or performance.

Where you refer to, or use, information, ideas or any other content from somebody else’s work, the original source must be acknowledged through accurate citation and referencing. Use quotation marks to indicate exact quotations from the work of other authors.

Reusing your own work

Academic study is a dynamic process, which means that your ideas and understanding will develop over time as you continue to learn, research and engage in new assignments and projects.

It is not appropriate to use, in exactly the same form, work that you have previously submitted for assessment at Leeds or anywhere else. There may be exceptions to this rule if, for example, an assignment is specifically designed to help you to prepare for a subsequent piece of work. You will be explicitly told when this is the case.

Manipulating work to avoid detection

Our expectations of honesty extend to the way that you present your work when you submit it for marking, so any attempt to manipulate text, images or other content in an inappropriate manner (for example, to disguise plagiarism or misrepresent the word count) is a breach of academic integrity.

If you are worried about the word count for an assignment, try these strategies for revising and editing to make your work as focused and concise as possible.

You should also check with your school or module leader regarding any requirements for the presentation of your work, such as font size, formatting and line spacing.

Using generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools

Assessed work is categorised according to a “traffic light” system (with red, amber, and green categories) to let you know whether you are allowed to use generative AI tools in your assessment, and what the boundaries are.  

Your assessments are a chance for you to demonstrate your own knowledge, understanding and ability. If you use AI tools to generate work (including written work, imagery, video, animation, sound, or other outputs) in a way that is not allowed in the red, amber, or green category that your assessment has been given, we can’t assess you fairly because the work isn’t solely yours. This undermines our commitment to academic integrity. If you are found to have used generative AI when you weren’t supposed to, this will be classed as academic misconduct.  

If you are working on a green or amber assessment, where some use of generative AI is allowed, make sure you state clearly what you used, and how you used it. If you do not correctly acknowledge the use of generative AI, this will be classed as academic misconduct. 

If you are not sure exactly what generative AI tools, outputs or tasks are allowed or not allowed in your assessment, you should ask the module leader for clarification.  

Contract cheating

Academic integrity means ensuring that all of your work is a true expression of your individual understanding and ideas. Contract cheating is an attempt to undermine this commitment by submitting work that you have asked someone else to produce for you, or which you know to have been produced by somebody else. This applies to work bought from any source, including online essay and report writing services, and also applies to work provided by a third party without any payment. Commercial services that encourage and enable students to cheat are illegal in the United Kingdom.

Obtaining work from others by theft, deceit or fraud

Deliberately or unintentionally submitting work that has been obtained illegally by tricking others or stealing from them is a serious breach of academic integrity. This applies to materials that form part of a submission, as well as to entire assignments.

Fabrication

As a student, you are part of a community of scholars who exchange and engage with new ideas and information in an open and respectful manner. It is therefore vital that your work is not only your own, but also truthful and genuine, and that it does not contain material that is untrue or made up. This applies particularly (but not only) to laboratory and practical work, and to research results presented in dissertations, theses and other project work.

Collusion

Studying together is a normal and positive aspect of university life, which is good for us all, socially as well as academically. However, it is important that you understand what you are being asked to do for each assignment and how you are required to work.

If the assignment is intended to be completed independently, then any deliberate attempt to work with others to reduce the time and effort that you have to invest, or to mislead the marker about your individual understanding, would be academic malpractice.

You must also be careful that you do not accidentally compromise your independence, for example, by sharing notes and other preparatory materials with your coursemates. The requirement to work independently applies to all stages of work on an assignment, from first preparations to final editing and submission. See our groupwork section for guidance.

Cheating during a timed online assessment

Our shared standards of academic integrity also apply to timed online assessments. Rules about the avoidance of plagiarism, collusion, fabrication and other forms of academic malpractice apply just as much to online assessments as to any other form of university work. This means:

  • you should not obtain the assessment questions in advance of the time period for the assessment
  • the material that you submit for assessment must be your own work, expressing your individual understanding and ideas in your own words, except where specific material from other authors is credited and exact quotations placed in quotation marks
  • you should not discuss either the content of the assessment or your answers with anyone else during the time between the release of the assessment paper and the final deadline for submission of answers, as this would be a form of collusion
  • work must be free from falsification, manipulation or any other efforts to mislead the marker.

Cheating during a time-limited online assessment

Examinations allow you to express your academic understanding and knowledge whilst demonstrating your ability to work under different constraints. Attempting to gain an unfair advantage in an in-person examination is therefore at odds with Academic Integrity and is viewed by the university as cheating.

Find out more about the university's definitions of and penalties for cheating.

Getting others to proof-read your work

The emphasis in academic integrity on a student’s original work and individual effort applies to all aspects and stages of an academic assignment. Having your work proof-read by others, whether a fellow student, friend, family member or a third-party service, is therefore not permitted by the university.

Read the University’s proof-reading policy (PDF) for detailed guidance on the different types of support from university staff that students are allowed – and encouraged – to ask for.

Using plagiarism detection websites

Many websites claim to offer free plagiarism checks if you submit your essay to them. This might result in your essays being sold to other students and could mean that your work shows up as being stolen or plagiarised when you submit it through Turnitin.

It is your responsibility to ensure the integrity of your academic work at all times, so using any “essay checker”, “note sharing” or “plagiarism detector” service before submitting your assignments would undermine this.

Avoiding plagiarism and other forms of academic malpractice

There are no “shortcuts” to avoiding plagiarism, but you can avoid it by applying the advice in our Skills for good academic practice section and by making the most of the support provided to you by the University.

You can develop and check your understanding of plagiarism and the other forms of plagiarism discussed here with the practice Academic Integrity tutorial.