Plagiarism Strategy

The University's approach to the prevention and management of plagiarism is set out below. It encompases prevention through awareness, training and pedagogy and procedures for managing cases, designed to be proportionate to the circumstances.

Prevention of plagiarism: academic staff

Academic staff members play an important role in demonstrating to students that academic integrity is practised and valued. The Oxford Learning Institute (OLI) has developed a new resource aimed at tutors regarding the role of pedagogy in preventing plagiarism. This can be found at http://www.learning.ox.ac.uk/support/teaching/resources/plagiarism/

Staff can also help discourage plagiarism through the design of the assessments that they set. OLI has produced a guide to help departments and examiners think about and improve their assessment design, both for new courses and existing ones. This has been incorporated into Education Committee’s Policy and Guidance on new courses and major changes to courses (including closure) which can be found at http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/edc/policiesandguidance/pgnewcourses/

Prevention of Plagiarism: student information

Information about plagiarism for students is provided on the Oxford Students website: https://www.ox.ac.uk/students/academic/guidance/skills/plagiarism?wssl=1

The Proctors’ Disciplinary Regulations for Candidates in Examination have been revised using consistent language with the Oxford Students Website, making an explicit link between the two, and clarifying what kind of behaviour is unacceptable and likely to lead to penalties http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/statutes/regulations/288-072.shtml

The information in The University Student Handbook (formerly the Proctors’ and Assessor’s Memorandum (PAM)) is consistent with all other sources and directs students to both the Oxford Students Website source, and the online course.

Prevention of Plagiarism: training for students in good academic practice

Education Committee has endorsed an online course for the prevention of plagiarism. The course can support monitoring of completion, and certification for those departments or faculties (or potentially colleges) who want to ensure that all their students have completed the course. The new online course does not eliminate the need for departmental guidance, particularly on subject-specific citation conventions, but it considerably strengthens Oxford’s implementation of a plagiarism strategy, and demonstrates that all students have access to quality tuition on good academic practice and the avoidance of plagiarism whenever and wherever they need it. https://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/portal/site/:skills:generic:avoidplag

Current policy places responsibility on departments and faculties for providing an induction session and written material on plagiarism for all students. Departments and faculties are asked to ensure: that course handbooks and websites included the University’s definition of plagiarism and a link to the Oxford Students Website guidance on plagiarism; that appropriate subject-specific guidance on academic good practice was provided along with relevant study skills advice and a style guide to inform students of good referencing practice. This requirement is now incorporated in the University’s template for course handbooks (which is contained in the Policy and Guidance on course information http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/edc/policiesandguidance/pandgoncourseinformation/) In addition departments and faculties are advised that induction sessions should always incorporate sessions on good academic practice and the avoidance of plagiarism with appropriate study skills support. They are further strongly advised to direct their students to complete the new online course within the context of their academic induction.

Detection and handling of cases of suspected plagiarism

The University will work towards a consistent set of requirements for submission of summative assessments, and a consistent approach by examination boards to their use of Turnitin, as part of this strategy on plagiarism.  Examinations Panel considered digital submission of assessments for taught courses in Michaelmas Term 2013 and agreed in principle that a central policy on electronic submission for taught degrees should be introduced to remove the current variations in practice, to promote equity of treatment of students, and to make possible the use of a single declaration of authorship. It would also be possible to link the process of submission to online plagiarism resources and encourage better understanding of plagiarism. However, it was acknowledged that, before introducing such a policy, there were substantial issues to be addressed, in particular identifying a system that would support the online submission of 13,500+ assessments a year.

The considerable benefit of a robust online submission system for summative work is widely recognised and Education IT Board has this on its list of student administration projects for 2016-17. In the meantime, Examinations Panel has approved the use of Weblearn for submission of summative work and those responsible for examinations requiring digital submissions are now encouraged to make use of this route. Weblearn can be integrated with Turnitin and so facilitates its consistent use. As more departments take up Weblearn as their preferred submission route, it is likely that more will use the option to screen work for text matches. Departments/faculties should contact taughtdegrees@admin.ox.ac.uk to discuss their requirements.

The University continues to work within the current policy it has endorsed in relation to the use of Turnitin. This includes use in summative assessment subject to approval by the Proctors. Guidance for the use of Turnitin in formal examinations, where exam boards elect to use it, is published by the Proctors and Education Committee in the Policy and Guidance for examiners and others involved in University examinations http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/edc/policiesandguidance/pgexaminers/annexel/.

Departments may also use Turnitin for formative assessment to help students gain a better understanding of good academic practice. IT Services staff provide training courses and personalised support for departments and faculties wishing to use Turnitin in formative and summative assessment.

New procedures and regulations for dealing with cases of poor academic practice and plagiarism were approved in Trinity term 2016 including guidance on the role of examiners in the process. The new procedures are the result of extensive discussion with previous Proctorial teams and consultation with the wider University. They are intended to operate with greater proportionality, and so improve the time taken to complete the process, by moving responsibility for dealing with cases of poor academic practice to examination boards, and for more serious cases of suspected plagiarism to a new Academic Conduct Panel. The most serious cases, where a potential outcome is expulsion or failure of the whole course, will continue to be referred to the Student Disciplinary Panel. The new procedures came into effect on 1 October 2016.

Interpreting Turnitin reports is one aspect of examiners’ role in detecting and dealing with poor academic practice/plagiarism. Guidance on this role has been approved by Education Committee recently. It will be used and refined as the new procedures for dealing with plagiarism are implemented in 2016-17.

Guidance on the procedures for dealing with poor academic practice and on interpreting Turnitin reports is available in the Policy and Guidance for examiners and others involved in University examinations www.admin.ox.ac.uk/edc/policiesandguidance/pgexaminers/.

Maintenance of strategy, policies and guidance on plagiarism

Education Committee will remain responsible for oversight of the approach and for review or amendment of policies. The strategy will be the responsibility of Education Policy Support to maintain and communicate. In summary, the plagiarism-related resources are:
For students:

  • Comprehensive information about plagiarism on the Oxford Students Website
  • The Proctors’ Disciplinary Regulations for Candidates in Examination on the University Statutes and Regulations website
  • Information contained in The University Student Handbook
  • Subject-specific guidance in handbooks and induction sessions
  • The new online course: Avoiding Plagiarism

For staff:

  • OLI guidance on the role of pedagogy in preventing plagiarism
  • OLI guidance on plagiarism and assessment design
  • Education Committee policies on induction and handbook content
  • Guidance on the use of Turnitin
  • Procedures for dealing with poor academic practice and suspected cases of plagiarism

Further information

Further details are available from Philippa O’Connor, Deputy Director, Education Policy Support, (philippa.oconnor@admin.ox.ac.uk, telephone (2)80707).