Avoiding Academic Misconduct and plagiarism

Since exams went online, there has been a 50% increase in the number of misconduct cases being investigated by the University. The University have ways of detecting misconduct including plagiarism and collusion.

If you have been accused of plagiarism and need to attend an interview/discussion or panel, please take a look at our academic advice pages here for more information on how we can support you.

If you need to report someone for academic misconduct, or need to report a group chat for collusion, then email your Faculty Hive: fhmshelp@surrey.ac.uk / fasshelp@surrey.ac.uk / fepshelp@surrey.ac.uk 

Avoiding Academic Misconduct

Ahead of your exams in January, we wanted to take the opportunity to remind you of the best approaches maintaining the academic integrity of your assessments to ensure you’re able to perform at your best.

Academic Integrity refers to the University’s policy on suspected academic misconduct. The University takes academic misconduct very seriously, and if you are found to have given yourself an unfair advantage in your assessments, eg. through plagiarising work, then you may be asked to attend a meeting with the University to discuss your work which can lead to penalties being applied. If you have been asked to attend a meeting, you can email ussu.advice@surrey.ac.uk for advice. However, it’s always best to try to stick to good academic practices to avoid needing to go through that process.

You can avoid plagiarism for online exams in the following ways:

Having reliable notes

Making sure your notes are entirely in your own words will help prevent you from accidentally plagiarising content or phrases that may have come from another source. Some students may unknowingly write the exact phrasing from an academic source into their notes whilst revising and fail to add a reference or quotations, or may forget to paraphrase correctly.

Check your notes several times and check your final work thoroughly. The more sure you are that your work is in your own words, correctly referenced and paraphrased, the less likely you are to have committed academic misconduct.

When completing open book exams, it’s vital that you’re sure your notes can be relied upon.

Work alone:

It can be tempting to check your course’s WhatsApp group or check in with your housemate downstairs who is doing the same exam, but you should not work with any other students on independent work, and if someone shares any answers or exam questions, you shouldn’t use that information to give you an advantage on the work. The University can detect if you have worked with someone else or already had access to answers before the exam – it isn’t just Turnitin scores that can indicate plagiarism or collusion.

Work alone and don’t be tempted to communicate with others who are taking the same exam, and be aware that fellow students might not yet have done their exam (if there is a 24 hour window for the assessment). If anyone shares answers with other students e.g.. in a group WhatsApp, and you feel this is unfair, you can report these instances to your Academic Hive by emailing them. Reporting concerns of academic misconduct might help in tackling the inappropriate actions of others who have sought to cheat. The University can ensure the reports made to them on potential cases of academic misconduct remain anonymous.

If you are part of a chat that discusses the answers and you do not report (even if you do not know about it) then you could be given a penalty as the University are not able to differentiate between those who have benefited from the answers and those who have not. 

We would strongly suggest you remove yourself from any group chats, group Whatsapp’s, snapchats or other social platform, prior to your exam period.

Reference properly

Some exams (particularly 24-hour exams) may require you to reference. It is therefore important that you keep accurate note of the references you’ve used in your revision notes and in your final work, and that you know your referencing style so you can correctly reference in-text and at the end of your essay.

Unsure on referencing? Check with your lecturer or module leader, or request support from Academic Skills and Development.

Use your time wisely

If you have been given two hours for an examination, then that is because your lecturers feel this is a sensible time to complete your examination. Completing your exam too quickly could cause you to make silly mistakes or not perform at your best.

Whilst you may be an absolute whizz and be inclined to speed through, we would advise that you always carefully read the question, read it again and then check over your answers to make sure you are using your time wisely. If you have a 24 hour examination, remember that you’re not expected to work for the full 24 hours, but do make sure you give yourself enough time to check references at the end, check your paraphrasing and still leave enough time to submit your work.

If you need help planning your time, check out our online revision plan generator here!

Get the right academic support

If you are really struggling with your assessments, please do not feel tempted to seek inappropriate support from companies offering assessment assistance. These companies, often called “Essay Mills” offer the promise of a quick solution to your problems but can lead to much bigger issues down the line. Firstly, these companies often make more money from students afterwards by blackmailing them, and can also often provide really poor quality work that could lead you to fail anyway.

It could also mean severe consequences at University. The University has a tool called Turnitin Authorship which can detect the tone and style of writing in your work, and spot anomalies in submissions. If the style, tone or handwriting changes in your work then the University may believe that someone else has written the work for you. This could lead to misconduct allegations, as even failure to declare third party assistance in your work can constitute academic misconduct. If the University can prove you have contracted someone else to write your work, this could lead to the most severe allegation of academic misconduct, and termination from your studies.

Make sure the work you submit is your own independent work and don’t feel tempted to turn to these dodgy companies for help. If you think you need help with assessments or have additional learning requirements, then we would suggest you contact the Academic Skills and Development team or speak with Disability and Neurodiversity

Extenuating Circumstances

Finally, if you feel that your academic performance in your upcoming exams will be impacted by circumstances outside your control, you may need to consider applying for ECs. Please talk to your Personal Tutor first if you can, and you can seek advice from our academic advice team who are running EC Drop-Ins through January to support students in their EC applications. If you have any questions or queries, then get in touch by attending a drop in or emailing ussu.advice@surrey.ac.uk  

You can find more information on ECs here  or email us at ussu.advice@surrey.ac.uk 

If you experience IT issues during an exam, you must notify the University as soon as they occur. Email or telephone your Academic Hive immediately if any problems occur and keep a record of your communication, and if possible, take any photos of the error you’re looking at. This communication can then be used as evidence for ECs applications.

Avoid Purchasing an Essay and Essay Mills 

Purchasing an essay, or “contract cheating” is a serious offense in the University’s regulations and, if caught buying some, or all of your essay, you will be terminated from study and removed from the University. Dont get caught out: the University has ways of detecting contract cheating through Turnitin and Turnitin Authorship. 

Here are some of the big worries that we have about buying your work: 

  • If caught, the University will terminate your programme of study and expel you from University 
  • The essays produced are usually low quality, and wont always make your pass mark 
  • Essay mills, and the companies who write essays, target stressed and vulnerable students which is why the price can be high, and the quality low. They will also send you the work as near to the deadline as they can, so that you cannot make edits or complain about their work
  • Essay mills know that students will be expelled from University if found out, and use this to bribe their customers, meaning students pay more than just the price of the essay. 

Essay mills are dangerous and buying an essay can have serious consequences. For more advice, email ussu.advice@surrey.ac.uk 

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