Academic Misconduct

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What is academic misconduct?

When we study at university, we submit assessment to demonstrate our understanding of what we’ve learned – it’s basically our time to show off what we know. But to do this, we must behave honestly and ethically in our assessment. Any action on your behalf to undermine this process is academic misconduct.

There are three types of academic misconduct:

  1. Cheating in examinations
  2. Plagiarism
  3. Other forms

The following relates to undergraduate and postgraduate coursework students. If you are a postgraduate research student, you should see Research Misconduct.

Cheating in examinations – what am I not allowed to do?

Cheating in exams means doing anything that you’re told you’re not allowed to do at the beginning of the exam by the invigilator. You need to make sure you listen carefully to these instructions. Cheating is often, but not limited to:

  • bringing unauthorised material into an exam;
  • having access to unauthorised written notes in any form during the exam;
  • communicating with others during the exam by any means; or
  • copying or reading someone else’s work during the exam.

Cheating also means attempting to do anything you’re not allowed to.

How do I avoid plagiarism?

Plagiarism means representing another person’s ideas or work (including another student’s) as your own, by copying or reproducing without appropriately acknowledging the source. You need to reference your material using the style that your Faculty or subject recommends.

Plagiarism includes:

  • direct copying off another’s work without properly referencing;
  • paraphrasing someone else’s work with minor changes but with the meaning, form and/or progression of ideas maintained;
  • piecing together sections of other people’s work into a new whole; or
  • copying non-word based materials such as musical scores, audiovisual material, art or industrial plans of others; and
  • using experimental results obtained by someone else and representing it as your own work.

If you’re ever unsure about how to use your Faculty’s referencing style, instructions for all the styles are available on QUT’s website at Cite Write.

Also, if you need help with understanding how and when you need to reference, the Library runs workshops during semester for free.

What else is considered academic misconduct?

There are other things that aren’t plagiarism and cheating that are considered academic misconduct. These include:

  • giving or selling your own work to another person, company or website for copying or use by someone else;
  • recycling one of your assignments from a previous unit and resubmitting it;
  • misrepresenting, falsifying, misstating or fabricating data for the purpose of assessment;
  • purchasing or otherwise obtaining assessment material through individuals, companies or online services; and
  • collusion or collaborating with other people where it is not authorised in the assessment requirements.

This list is not exhaustive though; the University may deem new categories.

The University accused me of academic misconduct!

If you’ve been accused of academic misconduct, the first thing the University will do is class what you did as a minor or major offence.

The following is taken into account when they decide which category it will be:

  • Extent
    • What percentage is the assessment worth? E.g. 10% or 60%
    • How much of the assignment was dishonest? Was it a few lines or more than half of the assignment?
  • Level
    • How far through your course are you and how long have you been at QUT?
  • Knowledge
    • How well do you know what you should be doing? Are there cultural considerations to take into account?
  • Discipline
    • What are the accepted practices in your Faculty?
  • Recidivism
    • Have you been found guilty of academic dishonesty in the past?

They will look at all of the above things and decide whether they think it is minor or major. The following things will probably be minor:

  • inadequate or inconsistent referencing;
  • paraphrasing too close to the original;
  • minor copying of material, such as copying one or two sentences, usually inadvertently; or
  • copying of answers to questions at the end of laboratory practicals.

Anything more serious than this will usually be classified as major.

The University classed my dishonesty as minor, what now?

Where the misconduct is minor, the University tries to resolve the matter quickly and informally. You will be contacted by the time that the marks are released for the assessment item. Your Unit Coordinator will probably have a meeting with you to determine the causes behind the alleged dishonesty. The primary focus of the meeting will be to educate you about what is acceptable and what is not with regards to academic integrity.

The Unit Coordinator wil mark you as normal against the criteria, and if low grades are given for referencing, they will provide you with an explanation as to how. You won’t be given any penalty.

A warning will be entered into the University’s system in all cases. This means that if you do something similar again, it may not be classed as minor. You will usually only be given one chance!

It was classed as major! Help!

You will have received a letter from your Faculty stating the accusation type and your interview date.

You will also have been instructed to hand in a personal statement by a certain date to represent your side of the story. This is very important. You need to explain the circumstances that led to the accusation.

You have the right to attend this interview to give your side of the story. You can also bring along another person as your support person if it will make you feel more comfortable, or they can say something on your behalf. If you don’t wish to attend, the proceedings will go ahead without you.

The interview will be with your faculty committee. Faculty committees exist to deal with major cases of academic misconduct. They consist of:

  • A senior member of the academic staff
  • One other academic staff member
  • One student representative

A secretary will also be in attendance, but is not technically part of the meeting.

These people choose what penalty is appropriate in your circumstances. Roughly, the penalties are as follows:

  • No penalty
  • Reduction in marks for the assessment
  • Zero for the assessment
  • Reduction in marks for the unit
  • Zero for the unit
  • Zero for some or all enrolled units
  • Suspension
  • Exclusion

After the committee has chosen your penalty, you will be notified by email and letter.

Can I appeal the decision?

You may appeal to the University Appeals Committee within 10 days of receiving your outcome letter. This Committee sits at University level – above the Faculties – and can overrule the Faculty’s decision. If you want to appeal, you need to prove one of the following:

  • that the decision is manifestly unreasonable taking into account all the circumstances of the case or cannot be supported by the evidence that was available at the time the decision was made
  • that procedural requirements specified in this policy were not followed and resulted in a decision which was manifestly unfair
  • that relevant evidence was not considered in reaching the decision or that irrelevant evidence was relied upon in reaching the decision
  • that fresh evidence has become available to the student which was not available or not known to the student at the time that the allegation was heard or decided
  • that a penalty imposed under 8.1.8 was manifestly excessive or inappropriate, taking into account all the circumstances of the case.

You need to write a submission that shows the Committee that for one of the above reasons, it is not fair for you to get the penalty you received.

They can:

  • Dismiss the appeal (no change in outcome)
  • Change the penalty to a different one, including no penalty
  • Uphold the appeal and revoke the charge

You will be notified of the outcome by email and letter.

I need help.

If, at any step along the way, you need advice or help, contact the Guild’s Student Rights Hub immediately and we can represent you for the best outcome. We can help you with the following things:

  • Determining if your action fulfils the criteria for major academic misconduct
  • Assist you in writing your show cause letter
  • Provide advice on what supporting documentation should accompany your show cause letter
  • Accompany you to the discipline meeting
  • Assist in preparing your appeal of any decision reached by the University