Advice on avoiding plagiarism and other forms of academic misconduct
What is plagiarism and what are the consequences?
Academic misconduct is as any action or attempted action that may result in you obtaining an unfair academic advantage. There are strict penalties for academic misconduct, potentially culminating in exclusion from the university.
The various practices considered to be academic misconduct are listed in the UCL Academic Manual, as are the investigatory processes and penalties (Chapter 6, sections 9.2 - 9.4).
- UCL’s introduction to academic misconduct (with examples)
- Full list of practices considered academic misconduct
- Penalties and procedures for academic misconduct
Presenting other people’s work as your own (plagiarism)
Plagiarism is the presentation of another person's thoughts or words or artefacts or software as though they were your own own. This applies whether the other person is the author of a book or journal article, a lecturer, a fellow student, the author of a blog, or a photographer or videographer posting content online; in fact, any person who produces or revises content.
Plagiarism of any sort constitutes academic misconduct and is an examination offence under the University Regulations, so it is important that you understand what counts as plagiarism and how to avoid it. UCL regulations governing plagiarism apply to all student work, including examinations, assessed coursework and non-assessed coursework.
All UCL students are required to read the UCL guidance on plagiarism as well as the IoA Study Skills Handbook (this document) which includes advice on presentation and referencing. All assessed coursework is submitted to Turnitin®, a sophisticated detection system which scans student work for evidence of plagiarism by matching text from student assessments to billions of sources worldwide, including websites and journals, as well as work previously submitted to the IoA, UCL and other universities.
For more information, please refer to the UCL guidelines and definitions of plagiarism.
Re-using your own work (self-plagiarism)
Self-plagiarism is the reproduction or resubmission of your own work, in full or in part, which has already been submitted for assessment to UCL or any other institution. This constitutes academic misconduct unless the relevant member of academic staff has explicitly given you permission to re-use your own work, in which case you must follow their guidance and properly acknowledge the re-use.
Having other people write or prepare your assignments (contract cheating / collusion)
Commissioning other people to write your assignments is contract cheating, whether or not you pay for them to do the work. Working with others to prepare your assignments is collusion, except where explicitly allowed, for example in some group projects.
Note that you may be approached by companies or individuals offering to write you ‘guaranteed plagiarism-free’ coursework, but the very act of submitting their work as if it is yours is, of course, plagiarism! Do not be tempted: you won't learn anything and the penalties for contract cheating are very severe.
Having generative AI or other software write your assignments (falsification / plagiarism)
Forbidden and/or undeclared use of generative AI (e.g. ChatGPT) or traditional writing review software (e.g. Grammarly) may be treated as falsification or plagiarism, depending on the circumstances. You are likely to be called to an investigatory viva (oral examination) and could face penalties for academic misconduct.
Guidance to help you avoid academic misconduct
Obviously, don’t cheat in exams and don’t commission other people to write your assignments! More generally, always be honest and transparent about the sources used in your work, as well as any assistance obtained from other people or software.
The key to avoiding plagiarism is to write in your own words as much as possible and, crucially, to follow the Institute of Archaeology guidelines for effective referencing (the previous section in this guide).
The following introductory guides are highly recommended:
- UCL’s Understanding Academic Integrity course
- Beginner's Guide to Avoiding Plagiarism (Institute of Education)
Other useful information:
- UCL information about academic integrity
- UCL guide to references, citations and avoiding plagiarism
- Institute of Archaeology Presentation on avoiding plagirism from the Academic Writing Moodle
- Guidance for students submitting work via Turnitin in Moodle
To avoid falsification don’t use generative AI or writing review software without first checking what is allowed in each assignment. You may find this information in the course handbook, in the assignment brief, or elsewhere on Moodle, but if in doubt ask the member of staff who set the work. Be sure to follow any guidance and always acknowledge the use of AI or other software in the boxes provided on the Institute of Archaeology coursework coversheet.