- What is ‘academic misconduct’?
- Why have I received an investigation letter?
- What can I expect from the meeting?
- How can I prepare for the meeting?
- What are the possible outcomes from the meeting?
What is 'Academic Misconduct'?
The University defines academic misconduct as anything which aims to:
- Give an unfair advantage over other students
- Deceive the marker
The University takes academic conduct seriously and expects all students to uphold the principles of academic honesty:
- Always giving full credit for any other person’s contributions
- Never falsifying the results of any work
One of the most common forms of academic misconduct is plagiarism, which is representing work or ideas as your own without appropriate acknowledgement or referencing. This usually appears as copying text from a source without using quotation marks or properly paraphrasing. Plagiarism is often considered as ‘poor academic practice’ which is a lower category of academic misconduct.
Another form of academic misconduct is collusion, which is the unauthorised working with another person on a piece of work which is submitted without acknowledgement of the other's contribution. Whilst you can discuss your assignments with friends, it is really important that the content you produce is completely your own work. Collusion is considered to be a higher category of academic misconduct.
For other forms of academic misconduct, see 12.3 of Chapter 12 – Academic Conduct and Practice from the Teaching Quality Assurance (TQA) Manual.
Why have I received an investigation letter?
The University uses Turnitin which is a software which detects similarities in pieces of work. This can indicate that there may be instances of plagiarism and/or collusion in an assignment.
Because Turnitin is not a very sophisticated tool – i.e. it will highlight text that has been correctly referenced as well – a member of staff needs to look at the piece of work to see if there is any potential academic misconduct.
You have been sent this letter to let you know why there has been a delay to the release of your results.
There are different outcomes after receiving this letter:
1) The case is dismissed
If no potential academic misconduct is found in your assignment, you will be notified that no further action will be taken and your results will be released.
2) You are invited to an academic honesty workshop
If no potential academic misconduct is found in your assignment but there are some concerns about your referencing, you will be invited to a workshop and your results will be released.
3) You are invited to a department level meeting for poor academic practice
If some potential poor academic practice is found in your assignment, you will be invited to a meeting to talk about it.
4) You are invited to a faculty level meeting for academic misconduct
If some potential academic misconduct is found in your assignment, you will be invited to a meeting to talk about it.
We appreciate that for a lot of students, receiving the investigation letter can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. At this stage, you will need to wait to see what the next step will be. If you receive a letter inviting you to a department or faculty level meeting, we can meet with you to help you prepare for this.
If receiving this letter significantly impacts your mental health, we would encourage you to reach out to Wellbeing for support.
What can I expect from the meeting?
If you have received a letter inviting you to a department or faculty level meeting, then there have been some concerns raised in your work which need to be discussed.
One of our advisors can attend the meeting with you as a supporter. We cannot answer questions on your behalf, but we can prompt you if we feel that you have forgotten to mention something important. Seeing a familiar face on screen or in person can help to make you feel a bit more at ease during the meeting. We can also meet with you immediately before the meeting to reassure you and immediately after the meeting for a debrief.
One of the main difference that you will notice between the two levels of meeting is the number of people who are present. For department level, there tends to be two members of staff and for faculty level there are more. This includes a notetaker who does not contribute to the discussion.
In both levels, the format is the same:
- The chair asks everyone to introduce themself
- They explain which section from Chapter 12 of the TQA that the case is being considered under and what the possible outcomes are
- They acknowledge that some students find the experience stressful and they will try their best to put you at ease. They encourage you to briefly leave the meeting at any point if you need a break.
- They ask general questions about your understanding of what constitutes good academic practice
- They ask specific questions about how you prepared for and wrote the assignment
- They either screen share your assignment or ask you to have it open on your computer and ask questions about specific parts of your assignment
- They ask you if you have any questions
- They ask your supporter if they have any comments
- They inform you that you will receive an outcome within 10 working days
- The meeting usually lasts about 30 minutes
The tone of the meeting will be respectful – they are just wanting to hear from you in order to understand how the similarity in your assignment has occurred.
We would encourage you to be open and honest in your answers as this will not only demonstrate your transparency but also your willingness to improve your writing skills.
How can I prepare for the meeting?
1) Retake the ‘Academic Honesty and Plagiarism’ module on ELE
It may have been a while since you have taken this module and it can be really useful to refresh your memory about what is expected of you when writing an assignment.
Retaking the module also demonstrates that you are being proactive and are taking the meeting seriously.
2) Go through your assignment and notes thoroughly
Having retaken the ELE module, go through your assignment and notes thoroughly and try to see if you can understand what the issues are.
The panel are likely to be interested in talking about sections where there is a lot of highlighted text. It might be useful to ask yourself the following questions:
- Have I missed any quotation marks?
- Have I missed any references/footnotes?
- Have I failed to paraphrase the author’s words?
- Have I used correct secondary referencing? (i.e. “Author A, cited in Author B’s work”)
- Have I made it clear in my notes what are my words and what are the author’s words?
Familiarising yourself with how you prepared for and wrote the assignment will really help when the panel ask you specific questions.
3) Submit a written statement
Once you have gone through your assignment thoroughly, you will be in a better position to explain what has happened in a written statement.
The panel ask for a statement to be sent no later than 24 hours before the meeting, however, this is just to give them time to read it beforehand, so you can still send in a statement less than 24 hours or share it during the meeting itself.
There is no set format for the statement, but you might find these suggestions useful:
- Aim for half a side to a full side of A4. If you need to provide lots of detail, you can write more.
- Have a brief introduction which outlines what you will cover
- Explain what you think the issues are in your assignment. Acknowledge that you have made some mistakes and that these were unintentional.
- Provide examples of where you have made these mistakes and explain what you should have done instead
- Provide relevant context – e.g. this is the first time I have studied in the UK; my mental health was very poor at the time of writing this assignment; this is the first assignment I’ve written since finishing my year in industry.
- State that you have retaken the ‘Academic Honesty and Plagiarism’ module on ELE
- State that you intend to book an appointment with a Study Zone advisor after the meeting
- Conclude by thanking the panel for taking the time to read your statement and say that you are keen to learn how to improve your writing skills
If you would like some feedback on your statement before you send it off, you can send us a draft and we can make suggestions.
If you are feeling nervous or your mind goes blank in the meeting, having your statement to hand can help to jog your memory.
What are the possible outcomes from the meeting?
Your meeting invitation letter will state which tariffs could be considered for your case. For department level (Poor Academic practice), these are usually Tariffs A-B, whereas for faculty level these are usually Tariffs A-D.
The panel can also refer your case to a higher-level meeting if the academic misconduct is deemed to be more significant than first thought.
What happens if I am not happy with the outcome
You can appeal the outcome of the meeting by emailing the Student Cases Team within 10 working days. It is important, however, to manage your expectations as it can be difficult to have an appeal upheld.