Tips for avoiding academic misconduct


When working on an assignment or preparing for an exam, if you are unsure whether what you are doing is correct then always ask for help, don't struggle alone or rely on what your friends tell you. Your tutor or Academic Adviser from your Department can help you with academic enquiries, so contact them to discuss your work as soon as possible.

Remember, if you breach University rules about preparing & writing assignments or sitting exams, you can still be found 'guilty' of academic misconduct even if you did not intend to break the rules or 'cheat'.

If you are struggling in the lead up to a submission deadline or exam because of difficult personal circumstances (for example, illness or bereavement), don't be tempted to 'cheat'. Instead, seek help from your tutor or the Student Life Centre in Bramber House. You may be able to submit an 'Exceptional Circumstances' claim.

Avoiding plagiarism

  1. Remember that all the work you submit has to be your own (prepared and written by you) unless you are instructed otherwise. If you refer to another person's work, you must provide a citation and acknowledge it properly. Find out how to do this on the University's referencing pages.
  2. Also remember that the requirement to properly reference is not restricted to direct quotes, you will also need to provide citations when you use other peoples' arguments as well.
  3. If you are using words or phrases from a 'secondary source' book or article (which is itself a description or summary of someone else's argument) then your citation should refer to both the primary and secondary source. Failure to do so technically counts as plagiarism.
  4. When you are looking at source material and writing notes, make sure that you have a system for identifying the bits that are direct quotes taken from the material and which are your own words, so you don't later forget and mix them up.
  5. Write rough notes by hand, don't type them straight into a computor. This should mean it will be less likely that you might mistakenly cut-and-paste rough notes into your final draft.
  6. Allow time to read & check your work properly to give yourself the best chance of identifying mistakes before you submit the work.

Avoiding collusion

  1. Check your course or module handbook for information about whether you are allowed to work together with other students for any part of an assignment. Occasionally you might be permitted to have joint preparation for a piece of work, but not joint writing-up or analysis. Your course documentation should clarify this and include relevant instructions about how to produce the work. If you have any doubt, ask your tutor, don't rely on what a coursemate tells you!
  2. Revising a module topic or discussing an essay question with friends is normally allowed-- but you must make sure that any ideas, phrases or answers which you include in your final work are solely yours. Many students find it safer not to discuss a piece of work in detail with another student if that they know that student is working on exactly the same question.
  3. Be very careful about showing other students your work before submitting it. Sometimes students are accused of collusion in cases where another student has copied their work without their knowledge. In such cases, you can still be found 'guilty' of misconduct if the University decides that you were careless or reckless in allowing somebody to look at your work.
  4. If you ask someone else to proofread (check) your work, you muct make sure that their amendments are limited to minor language correction. Any proofreader should not be a student from your course.

Avoiding personation

  1. Never buy or copy an essay from the internet and submit it as your own work, or allow another student to write an assignment for you. It really is as simple as that!
  2. Sometimes the rules regarding an assignment will state that students are not permitted to write a draft in their own language and then use Google Translate (or some other online translation tool) to convert the work into English. Make sure you have checked whether this applies to your piece of work. (We know of students who have been found guilty of 'personation' simply because they have relied on an online translation programme.

Avoiding misconduct in exams

  1. When you are waiting outside the exam room before the exam, make sure you listen carefully to any instructions given by the invigilator and look to see if there are any notices or signs displayed outside the room telling you about the exam rules. If you are worried that you might be in breach of any of the rules then speak to an invigilator immediately, before you take your seat in the room.
  2. Don't take your revision notes in with your, or write on your hand prior to the exam.
  3. Don't take electronic tablets, phones or calculators into the exam room (unless you are clearly told by your tutor that this is allowed).
  4. If you are discovered in the exam room with any of the above, this in itself will usually be enough to constitute academic misconduct, even if you did not actually look at any of these things during your exam. So check your pockets before you take your seat!
  5. Don't talk to anyone except an invigilator.

Here to help

If you'd like to discuss your concern further, our Student Advice team are here to help. Our service is confidential and independent from the University.

Student Advice, 1st Floor, Falmer House, University of Sussex.