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Academic dishonesty and plagiarism

As a student of the University, you are expected to promote a culture of academic integrity. We consider any attempt to gain academic advantage by dishonest or unfair means to be academic dishonesty – it is unacceptable.


During your time at the University, you will routinely be required to submit assessment tasks. We use these assessment tasks to evaluate your progress toward developing the knowledge and skills required for your qualification.

Once you achieve your award, this shows to prospective employers and the wider community that you have met these requirements. The value of your qualification is based on the University’s reputation and culture of academic integrity.

What is academic dishonesty?

Academic dishonesty is any dishonest or unfair action that you take to gain academic advantage. It also includes knowingly assisting another student to do this.

Academic dishonesty threatens the agreement between students, the University and the wider community to uphold academic integrity. As a result, any breach of this agreement is taken very seriously.

You can find more information in the Academic Honesty in Coursework Policy 2015.

Forms of academic dishonesty

The following are some common types of conduct that we consider to be academically dishonest.


Plagiarism means presenting work that is not your own without acknowledging the original source of the work. It doesn’t matter whether you do this on purpose or accidentally.

Plagiarism can include copying any material without correct referencing, regardless of the medium in which the original material was published. This includes material in hard copy (books, journals, theses etc), soft copy (internet, email attachments, e-journals etc), other digital formats (audio visual, MP3s etc) and live presentations (lectures, speeches etc).

For example, it is considered plagiarism if you:

  • copy ideas, phrases, paragraphs, formulas, methods, evidence, programming code, diagrams, images, artworks or musical scores without correctly referencing where it came from
  • copy from another student’s work without indicating this is what you have done
  • mention the source in your bibliography but do not reference content properly in the main body of your work, so the assessor does not know what work is your own
  • change the order of words taken from other material but retain the original idea or concept, without correct referencing
  • quote from a speech or lecture without acknowledging the speaker
  • quote from a secondary source, without acknowledging the primary source.

This means you can be seen as plagiarising not only in your written work, but also in oral presentations, artworks or performances, for example.

Not all acts of plagiarism are intentional or dishonest. In some situations it may be caused by your failure to understand the required referencing. In these situations we will offer a chance to learn about the required referencing and correct your work.

Dishonest plagiarism

Plagiarism will be considered dishonest where you have done it on purpose, or if the amount of copied or unacknowledged work dominates your own original work.

There are a number of things that you may do and not consider dishonest, but are considered to be plagiarism. The Plagiarism Spectrum developed by Turnitin illustrates some examples.

What’s not plagiarism

It is not considered plagiarism if:

  • the ideas or words are commonly used and there is no other way to express them
  • you have made the discovery yourself through experimentation or analysis
  • you have combined the work and ideas of others to reach your own conclusion and have acknowledged these sources in the body of your work.

Recycling/resubmitting work

We encourage you to build on the knowledge you have developed over the course of your studies.

You can draw on your own previous work that is relevant and advances your knowledge but you cannot recycle or resubmit work that has already been assessed and for which you have received credit. Never copy past assessment items to reduce your workload and save time.

If you want to draw on knowledge or ideas you have encountered before, speak to your lecturer, tutor or supervisor about how to do this.

Fabricating information

Making up information for research-focused assessment tasks, such as experimental or interview data, means you don’t benefit from the learning involved in gaining this information. It can also include inventing sources of data, evidence or ideas by including citations to publications that are incorrect or don’t exist.

Collusion in individual and group work

You are encouraged to discuss ideas and assessment tasks with your peers, but should never complete the work together then submit it as entirely your own work.

Collusion may apply when you have worked so closely with another student on an individual assessment task that your work follows the same pattern or structure. It may include the same information, arguments and references to sources.

Collusion can also apply when you submit a group assessment task where the parts have been completed separately and without group input. All students are expected to contribute to all parts of group assessment tasks. This doesn’t mean that you all have to be involved in writing all parts, but that you have all contributed ideas and suggestions to the task overall. If you do not equally participate in completing group work this can be seen as engaging in academic dishonesty.

Examination misconduct

There are a number of things that are considered academically dishonest during examinations. This includes:

  • taking prohibited materials into an exam (for example, study notes, textbooks or unapproved devices and reference materials)
  • communicating with or copying from another student during an exam (or attempting to do so)
  • removing confidential examination papers from the exam venue
  • using electronic devices, such as a smartphone, to access information related to the examination without permission
  • while the examination is still in progress, discussing it with someone else outside the exam venue.

Use of document sharing websites or sources

If you upload your course notes or documents, some document sharing websites may grant you access to other people’s documents. Some sites may also let you purchase “credits” to access other people’s documents. In some situations, the documents that have been provided on these sites are work that has previously been submitted for assessment. As a result, there is the potential for this work to be used and submitted by other students as their own work.

We strongly discourage you from using these websites. It limits your ability to develop knowledge through engaged and independent enquiry. It could lead to an allegation of academic dishonesty if you submit work you derive from these documents, or if you upload documents for others to use.

Contract cheating and impersonation

Contract cheating involves getting someone else to complete part or all of your assessment task then submitting it as your own work. It doesn’t matter whether the person was paid. This can mean you have someone else write an essay or report for you (sometimes referred to as ‘ghostwriting’), or you get someone to sit your examination.

The University takes contract cheating and impersonation very seriously, and applies severe penalties under the student discipline chapter of the University of Sydney By-Law 1999 (as amended). This may mean you fail your unit of study, or that you are suspended or expelled from the University.

Last updated: 24 March 2017

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