Information on academic misconduct for students.
This page acts as:
- A gateway to university links related to academic misconduct.
- A general guide to academic misconduct ( this does not replace the full rules of the University).
- A source of quick advice on how to keep to good scholarly conduct.
If you find any broken links please report them to the School Academic Misconduct Officer (inf-samo AT inf.ed.ac.uk).
Work that is assessed for credit
Work for credit is anything that contributes towards your formal assessment either for the purposes of progression or degree classification. Note that this covers work which is required but is not issued any marks. The purposes of coursework in the School's teaching include both education and assessment. Assessment tests your personal understanding of material as well as skills gained and usually contributes to your individual grade for a course. Outside institutions and employers place a high value on degrees from this . We owe it to our many hard working students to maintain both the standards and the credibility of our degrees. Academic misconduct is viewed by us and the University as a serious offence. Equally, education is at its best when all sides contribute and feel free to discuss ideas. You are strongly encouraged to join in tutorials and feel free to seek any help; your tutor will know where to draw the line. In any case you should always aim to present work in your own words and be able to explain it both to your tutor as well as yourself. There is an important difference between an acceptable use of other people's ideas and copying or sharing other people's work without attribution (see also the guidelines below). For assessment to be fair, the extent to which submitted work is your own must be clear. Any discussions you have with others must stop well short of an actual solution (essay, code etc.). You must not present work as your own when in fact it is only partially (or even not at all) created by your own efforts. Academic misconduct includes, but is not limited to,
- impersonation .
There are some general principles in preparing any work:
- You should complete coursework yourself, using your own words, code, figures, etc.
- Acknowledge your sources for text, code, figures etc. that are not your own.
- Take reasonable precautions to ensure that others do not copy your work and present it as their own.
If you produce your own unassisted work then you are in no danger of commiting misconduct. However, if your work requires some help or collaboration then you should follow the guidelines below.
It is acceptable to use general ideas picked up, for example, in discussion with others, or in textbooks, without acknowledgement. In general, if you write the work you submit, in its entirety, yourself then you do not need to include an acknowledgement. An exception is when a really pivotal idea comes from an external source, in which case you should acknowledge that source.
Deliberately allowing your own work to be copied undermines the assessment process. You are required to take reasonable measures to protect your assessed work from unauthorised access. For example, if you put any such work on a public repository then you must set access permissions appropriately (generally permitting access only to yourself, or your group in the case of group practicals). Where there is collusion between students, all students involved may be penalised or disciplined.
Academic misconduct is often easy to detect and the School will use a number of methods to screen coursework. When misconduct is detected, it will be reported first to the School Academic Misconduct Officer who will decide if there is a case to answer; if this is so then the matter will be reported to the College Academic Misconduct Officer. His or her committee will then follow due process and determine if an offence has been committed. If the committee finds that an offence was committed then an appropriate penalty will be applied and the student's academic record amended to show that an offence was committed.
Work that is not for credit
It is a natural and beneficial part of the educational experience for students to discuss their work with each other and to incorporate ideas from many sources into their work. For example, the tutorial exercises in various courses are not assessed and you are free, indeed encouraged, to seek out and use all sources of help in learning the material. This includes working together with fellow students on the exercises if you want. Of course, there is no benefit in just copying somebody else's tutorial exercise solutions without understanding; there is a lack of genuine learning, leading eventually to failure on the exam. However, work that is not for credit is not convered by the regulations on academic misconduct.
Brief advice on keeping to good scholarly conduct
Thsi section pulls together various points made above as well as presenting some further advice. Some students stray into possible academic misconduct without realising it. The following advice is based on actual situations, please note that it does not replace the full University requirements.
- Discussions with other students. Keep discussions with other students in relation to work for credit at a general level and well away from any actual solution. In particular be very careful in labs or elsewhere when writing your code or report etc.
- Using help. Make an early start on each assignment, this way you will know in good time if you need help and seek it through official channels.
- Acknowledge sources. Whether you are writing an essay, report or code you should acknowledge any help received, sources consulted or software packages used; this is standard good scholarly practice. It is also very useful in explaining similarities that otherwise look suspicious which can save a lot of time for us and stress for you. If you use a figure or other material from a third party (even if modified) you should acknowledge it.
- Official sources. If you get help from your tutor, or other official means, for part of some code then acknowledge that with a brief comment (making it clear which part of the code is affected). Likewise if you base part of your code on a standard algorithm or allowed code in notes, labs etc. Likewise for all other work for credit.
- Other sources. You must not carry out a search (e.g., on the internet) for a solution to a problem unless the assignment allows it. If you are in doubt as to whether your intended use of an unofficial source is allowed then ask the person who issued the coursework for guidance. For more general guidance contact the School Academic Misconduct Officer at the address given above. As a general rule of thumb ask yourself if you would feel comfortable asking the lecturer for the form of help that you are considering getting by other means.
- Unintended minor breach of the rules. If, on reflection, you feel that a discussion with a friend went a little too far then acknowledge that and ask your friend to do the same (making it clear who helped whom or if it was mutual). Note that you cannot use this as an excuse for serious misconduct, it only applies to a purely unintended single minor breach. Such an acknowledgement helps the marker in deciding how much credit to allocate. Without an acknowledgment any student in this position is effectively trying to obtain more credit than merited; the only way to assign the appropriate mark is then to report the matter to College which is a very serious step. Note that under these latter conditions both parties would be reported even if one student helped the other.
- Previous Own Work. The requirement to acknowledge sources applies just as much to work that you have submitted before for credit either here or elsewhere. This makes it clear to the reader of the current work what is new and what is not. Here are two examples (this does not mean that they are the only ones).
- MSc Students IRP: As preparation for their project MSc stdents undertake research and produce a report (IRP). This is required as part of the degree and is thus for credit. Students who pass their exams then go on to carry out the intended project and write their MSc Thesis. Clearly it is very likely that student will wish to use material in the IRP report as part of the MSc Thesis. There is no problem with doing this provided that any such uses are explicitly acknowledged, i.e., treat the IRP like any other publication. If paraphrasing then use a phrase such as "The following is based on my IRP report". If taking a section straight from the IRP report than use a phrase such as "This section is taken verbatim from my IRP report", for shorter verbatim extracts use quotes and again state where the quote comes from.
- MInf5 Students Project Part 2: MInf projects consist of two parts, the first being carried out in the 4th year and the second in the 5th. A substantial report is produced for each part. Naturally a summary of Part 1 needs to be given in the report for Part 2. Just as for the MSc IRP it must be clear to the reader what is taken either verbatim or based on the report for Part 2.
- Essays. When writing an essay never cut and paste text from another source and then edit it to make it look like it is your own (this is really the same rule as for writing code). Any text you write must be written afresh by you. If you do want to keep source text unchanged then put it in quotation marks and give the source from which it came as a reference. Likewise if you are presenting a description based on a source then make that clear and give a reference.
- Protect your work. You are required to take reasonable measures to protect your work from being copied by others (see also the section "Publication of solutions to coursework" below).
- By default your DICE directories are protected, you should not change this. Many students use their own machines and/or online storage. Again these must protected, but you have to ensure this. Be aware that some free systems do not have this facility so they must not be used; it is an offence to publish any coursework unless this has been explicitly permitted.
- When working in a lab do not leave your terminal out of sight for any time. It does not take long for somebody to change your permissions or just take pictures of your screen showing code or an essay. So either log out or lock the terminal (observe etiquette and log out if you will be away for long).
Some practicals are done in teams, and are specifically designed to encourage collaboration. In such cases the lecturer will clarify what is expected regarding shared or common material.
Publication of solutions to coursework
It is now quite common to make work (mostly code) available on public repositories. This section is concerned with the rules for student solutions to coursework (of any kind) for credit. The rules are as follows:
- For each coursework the lecturer decides if students can publish their solutions (e.g., put them on an open public repository). The default is that students cannot do so and even when permitted they cannot make solutions public until two weeks after the relevant deadline (or longer if the lecturer decides it is necessary). The mechanism for declaring solutions publishable is to state this on the handout; so if nothing is stated then the solutions are not publishable.
- Projects (UG4, MInf and MSc) by contrast are publishable unless declared otherwise.
Presentation by the School Academic Misconduct Officer
The School Academic MIsconduct Officer gives a brief presentation to all first year and to all MSc students at the start of the academic year. All other students are sent a reminder by email of the need to keep to good scholarly conduct. The slides are available below.