Frequently asked Questions for Students

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If you have an additional question, please email right-cite@ncl.ac.uk

What is an assessment irregularity?

An assessment irregularity is any form of ‘improper means’ in an assessment process.  This covers any form of cheating or potential cheating.  There is no fixed list because the ways that people cheat can change all the time.  However some types of assessment irregularity are:

  • Plagiarism
  • Not citing references correctly or using quote marks correctly - so passing off the work of other people as your own.
  • Colluding with another student.
  • Getting someone else to write your assessment for you.
  • Copying from another student in an exam.
  • Having notes with you in an exam.
  • Making up research data.

Where can I find more help on proper referencing?

Many schools have produced their own referencing guides which should be referred to in your Degree Programme Handbook – if not talk to your Tutor.  There is also material on the student resources section of this website. 

I have been accused of plagiarism - what should I do?

When there is a problem with your work, it should be handled in accordance with the Assessment Irregularities Procedure   Read this procedure carefully.

Get advice from a friend – or your Tutor – if you need to.  You can also get advice from the Student Advice Centre.

However, if your work is being looked at, the very best advice that anyone can give you is to be honest.  Don’t admit to anything that you have not done, but if you have plagiarised then admit it and try and explain why that happened.  If you deny something that is very clear to others then the investigation will take longer – and your run the risk of being thought a liar – so if the decision goes against you the penalty could be worse.

I have been taught different way of referencing - which is correct?

As long as you are consistent and follow a standard model, both methods of referencing could be correct. However, there will be discipline specific preferences for referencing, so you should ensure that you follow the model that your Degree Programme Director has advised.

What will happen to me if I am caught plagiarising?

The first thing is that you would be asked to account for the work. You should be honest and try and give as much information as you can about how it happened. The final outcome will really depend on whether or not it is only a small amount of plagiarism or a large amount, and whether you are an experienced student. Most students end up with a warning and need to resubmit the work. There are some more serious case examples on the website.

How do I anonymously report someone if I think they have plagiarised/copied another student?

The University doesn't deal with anonymous complaints. The best thing that you can do is have a word, in confidence, with your tutor. It would then be up to your tutor whether he/she could do anything.

Am I allowed to use Wikipedia and other online encyclopaedias?

Yes, as background information. However, Wikipedia and other online encyclopaedias must not be used within you assignments without proper attribution. You can't copy material from Wikipedia anymore than you can copy it from a text book or an academic journal. However, in general, Wikipedia information will not be enough to support you through academic study. You will need to use academic texts and journals as well.

What if I can't remember the page number a quote comes from? What if I can't remember whose idea something was when referencing?

If you can't remember the full details of a citation, you are advised to look it up. In the absolute worst case scenario, you could miss out a page number and leave question marks in. However, making good notes of your citations is an essential part of your preparatory work for the assignment. Overall it is better to acknowledge sources used, even if you acknowledge them without full details, than not to acknowledge the sources at all.

Will I be punished the first time I plagiarise if I don't understand what it is?

It depends on how much you have plagiarised. If you have plagiarised a whole dissertation, you may well receive a severe sanction. If you have only plagiarised a couple of paragraphs in a first year assignment, you may just get a warning and a requirement to redo the work. With plagiarism, nobody will receive a mark for work which is not their own. So at the very least, your mark would be reduced because of the plagiarism. There is though some discretion as to whether you fail the whole paper or module - depending on what the circumstances were relating to your case.

How do staff detect plagiarism if you have used a quotes or ideas from something not on the reading list?

Most staff are very well read in their discipline, so can identify certain phrases and runs of text. If that's the case they could look up the text, maybe using Google. Appropriate work is submitted to plagiarism checking software on a regular basis. Sometimes staff spot the problem because what has been submitted is different to the student's normal style - whether their normal written style or the level of engagement that they show in classes.

I have so many different peoples ideas and influences in my dissertation how can I be sure I won't be accused of plagiarism?

By making sure you correctly cite all of the ideas and quotes from the various sources is the best protection against being accused of plagiarism.

My lecturer hasn't talked to us about plagiarism, where else can I get help on this issue?

Check out the Right-Cite website for lots of useful resources. Talk to your lecturer or your tutor if you have some concerns. In most Schools there is some material tailored to the discipline about correct citation.

Can I plagiarise myself?

Yes! Every time you submit work for an assessment it should be fresh work - no one (including you) should not have already submitted the work (or similar work) for an assessment at Newcastle or elsewhere. Otherwise it may be possible for someone to gain double credit for the same piece of work and that is unfair and dishonest.

I find writing in English difficult, can I write in my own language and have it translated into English?

We expect you to complete your assessments in English (unless otherwise asked). Please don't rely on free online translation software as it is very unlikely to produce high quality, academic English, and using this may well lose you marks on your assessments. If you are concerned about your writing skills, you are strongly encouraged to talk to the Writing Development Centre (WDC) who offer developmental support to undergraduate and postgraduate students across the university.