Guidelines on plagiarism

What plagiarism is and how to avoid it. See also 'Academic misconduct' policy.

The rules on plagiarism apply to assessment that contributes to your final mark of a course (referred to as summative assessment). They do not apply to work intended for feedback on an individual's (or group's) performance on some aspect of the course that does not directly contribute to the course marks (referred to as formative feedback).

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. However, there is an important difference between an acceptable use of other people's ideas and copying or sharing other people's work without attribution.

The purposes of coursework in the School's teaching include both education and assessment. Assessment tests your personal understanding of material 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. Plagiarism 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.


For assessment to be fair, the extent to which submitted work is your own must be clear. You must not plagiarise other peoples' work, presenting it as your own.

Plagiarism is a serious offence. It is often easy to detect. The School will use a number of detection methods to screen coursework. When plagiarism is detected, penalties appropriate to the problem will be applied, the Head of School will be informed as well as the Faculty of Science and Engineering, and your academic record may be amended permanently.

Deliberately allowing your own work to be copied undermines the assessment process. Where there is collusion between students, all students involved may be penalised or disciplined.


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 plagiarising. 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.

There are occasions on which you will wish to include work written by somebody else within your own work. For example, you may be quoting a passage from a book within an essay, or you may be unable to finish a program yourself and require a piece of code written by someone else. On such occasions, you should copy the original work verbatim together with a full and explicit acknowledgement of the original source. The beginning and end of the copied material must be clearly indicated (for example, in the case of copied text you should enclose the text within quotation marks) and the source of the work must be explicitly cited close to where the copied material appears. These rules apply irrespective of the type of work (prose, code, etc.).

If you collaborate on the preparation of all or part of a piece of work then the collaboration must be explicitly acknowledged, and the extent of the collaboration should be stated as fully as possible by all parties involved.

It is always unacceptable to attempt to disguise someone else's work in order to present it as your own, for example by making cosmetic changes to text, or by changing variable names or altering comments in code.

When in doubt, state explicitly what you have done and the sources of any help (including fellow students, tutors or textbooks) you receive. This will enable your work to be marked appropriately, and will ensure that you avoid suspicion of plagiarism.

In order to prevent others from copying your work and presenting it as their own, set the protection on your practical work directories appropriately. It is also sensible to ensure that any practical submissions that you print are collected promptly from the printers. By all means discuss your general ideas with other students, but do not distribute or lend your solutions to them.


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 in all cases cannot make solutions public until two weeks after the relevant deadline (or longer of 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.

Informatics guidance on academic misconduct

University guidance on academic misconduct