The University defines rules around academic misconduct and they are set out in the Academic Misconduct Rule. All students should make themselves familiar with the Rule and consequences of breaching the Rule.
The Rule defines “academic integrity” in section 5 as “the principle that students’ work is genuine and original, completed only with the assistance allowed according to the rules, policies and guidelines of the University”. Types of misconduct are defined in section 6.
Where students have doubts as to how to deal with or acknowledge source materials in essays and assignments, they should consult their convener.
The most common forms of misconduct listed in section 6 are “plagiarism” and “collusion”. Below is information that seeks to give students guidance on how to avoid these forms of misconduct.
What is Plagiarism and how do I avoid it?
The ANU’s Academic Misconduct Rule 2015 defines plagiarism in rule 7. That definition states:
- For the purposes of this instrument, a person engages in plagiarism if the person uses another person’s work as though it were the person’s own work.
- Without limiting subsection (1), a person uses another person’s work as though it were the person’s own work if the person uses the other person’s work without appropriate attribution.
- A student is responsible for ensuring that the student is fully informed about the appropriate methods of acknowledgement for any assessable work that the student submits.
The reason why plagiarism is considered academic dishonesty is because it is the academic equivalent of appropriating another person’s words and ideas and presenting them as your own. If you put someone else’s words or ideas into an essay without properly acknowledging their source, you are effectively holding yourself out to the reader of your work as the person who came up with those words or ideas. This is clearly dishonest.
Is it plagiarism if I copy from someone else’s summary or “model” answers in an online or open book exam?
There are multiple dangers lurking in other people’s summaries or model problem answers. The obvious ones are not related to plagiarism. Most notably, these are:
- If you use someone else’s work to familiarise yourself with a course, you are not gaining your own understanding of legal principles and their application. The value in a summary is in the learning that you do in its creation, not in the finished written product of someone else’s learning.
- The summary or model answer may contain errors that you are then incorporating into your own answer.
- The law to which the summary or model answer refers may be out of date.
In relation to particular dangers associated with plagiarism, though, you need to be aware that:
- The summary or model answer may, itself, contain plagiarised material that you are then incorporating into your own answer. This is (double) plagiarism on your part.
- If you use words or ideas from any source that you did not, yourself, create, without acknowledging those sources, you are plagiarising. This includes lecture slides, “model” answers and summaries.
What is “appropriate attribution”?
Sometimes students have difficulty working out what “appropriate” attribution or proper “acknowledgement” means (see rules 7(2) and 7(3) above). Different disciplines will have different citation conventions. However, some basic rules apply across all disciplines.
- You must acknowledge the source of the words, ideas and analysis of another person in your writing by citing the source accurately and completely. Pinpoint citations (indicating the exact page of the words, ideas or analysis) are required for accurate and complete citation.
- Copying someone else’s words verbatim into your own work is plagiarism (even if you provide a pinpoint citation to the source of those words) unless you put those words in quotation marks.
- Paraphrasing someone else’s work where you are simply changing a few words but largely maintaining the sentence structure, ideas, and progression of thoughts of the original writer is also plagiarism (even if you provide a pinpoint citation to the source).
- Explaining, clarifying or synthesising the ideas of others, using your own words, is not plagiarism so long as a pinpoint citation to the source material is provided.
Quoting, Paraphrasing and Synthesising: Examples1 and Advice
Hypothetically you are writing an essay on the “separation of powers” and have found a piece by Graham Spindler entitled ‘The Separation of Powers: Doctrine and Practice’ in (2000) 12 LegalDate 5.
You are relying on Spindler’s description of the pure separation of powers doctrine in your essay. Spindler writes (at page 5) as follows:
The doctrine of the separation of powers divides the institutions of government into three branches: legislative, executive and judicial: the legislature makes the laws; the executive puts the laws into operation; and the judiciary interprets the laws. The powers and functions of each are separate and carried out by separate personnel. No single agency is able to exercise complete authority, each being interdependent on the other. Power thus divided should prevent absolutism (as in monarchies or dictatorships where all branches are concentrated in a single authority) or corruption arising from the opportunities that unchecked power offers.2
Quoting a long paragraph (which requires indenting the text, using smaller font and providing a pinpoint citation as above) is not a good way to use Spindler’s work in your essay. This paragraph is not remarkable in how key concepts are expressed nor does it illuminate or advance a particular point in your essay. Spindler is simply summarising or describing the doctrine. So, in an essay such as this, you will need to explain the doctrine, by reference to what you have read in Spindler rather than quoting this entire paragraph. Generally speaking, you should reserve quotes for insertion as short phrases or key sentences because they capture an important idea or concept well or because they are particularly eloquently expressed. Quoting a whole paragraph would only be appropriate if it is crucial to your argument or sums up a core idea in your essay.
But if you shouldn’t quote, in this instance, how do you do you explain the doctrine based on what you have read in Spindler?
- This explanation of quoting, paraphrasing and synthesising is based on the approach taken in a document produced by the University of Adelaide’s Writing Centre entitled “Avoiding Plagiarism”. It is available at: https://www.adelaide.edu.au/writingcentre/resources/avoiding-plagiarism
- Graham Spindler, ‘The Separation of Powers: Doctrine and Practice’ (2000) 12 LegalDate 5, 5.
What not to do: paraphrase
You must not engage in paraphrasing that would meet the description of plagiarism (and so would breach the academic integrity rule). An example of paraphrasing Spindler’s paragraph would be as follows:
The doctrine of the separation of powers splits the branches of government into three: legislative, executive and judicial: the legislature’s role is to make the laws; the executive’s is to put the laws into operation; and the judiciary’s is to interpret the laws. The powers and functions of each branch are distinct and carried out by separate persons. No one agency is able to exercise complete authority, because each depends on the others. Power that is divided this way should prevent dictatorship (unlike where all branches are concentrated in a single power) or corruption which might eventuate if one person or institution has all the power.3
This kind of paraphrasing is plagiarism (notwithstanding the pinpoint citation at the end of the paragraph) because it reproduces the structure, ideas and sentence progression of Spindler’s writing with some minor changes of vocabulary (replacement of particular words) or omissions (removal of some phrases). This is a particularly insidious form of plagiarism because it can obscure how much of another person’s ideas have been appropriated by the essay writer and, in some cases, is deliberately designed to confound Turnitin (which it doesn’t).
However, the ideas and content are not the writer’s own work, nor is it clear how much of what is written is related to the footnote at the end of the paragraph. Just the last sentence? The whole paragraph? This is an example of plagiarism.
What to do: explain and synthesise
Look at this from the perspective of the marker of your essay. What the marker needs to know is that you have understood Spindler’s description and can render his core ideas in your own words. Ideally, you would be synthesising your reading of a number of sources on the separation of powers in writing your paragraph but, for illustrative purposes, let’s look at an explanation or synthesis of Spindler’s work.
As Spindler explains, under the pure separation of powers doctrine, there are three branches of government: the legislative branch, the executive branch and the judicial branch. Each is differently comprised and each has a different function (making, administering or interpreting the law). The powers of one branch are intended to curb the powers of each of the others. “Power thus divided should prevent absolutism.”4
This is properly referenced, includes a quote from Spindler’s paragraph (which eloquently sums up a key idea) and indicates clearly how much of the writing is based on Spindler’s explanation of the doctrine of the separation of powers. What differentiates it from paraphrasing is that it seeks to summarise Spindler’s core ideas in the writer’s own words and using the writer’s own sentence structures.
General advice about citation
Law has specific citation conventions which your lecturers will expect you to master. You must familiarise yourself with the Australian Guide to Legal Citation (AGLC) which will be the citation guide that you will be required to use in most (if not all) of your legal writing. A convenor will normally indicate any special citation requirements when setting particular assessment tasks.
In general, remember:
- You must provide authority for all legal propositions (with pinpoint citations to the particular legislative provision or the particular page of a judgment upon which the proposition is found).
- You must acknowledge the primary and secondary sources that you use when writing an essay (with pinpoint citations to particular pages) at the appropriate points in your essay.
- It is not enough to put a source in a bibliography instead of a footnote if you have used that source at a particular point in your essay.
- Normally, citations should appear in footnotes, unless you have been asked by a particular lecturer to provide “in text” citations.
When writing an academic essay, attribution is not appropriate and complete unless you have provided a bibliography. A bibliography is a list of all the sources you have used in researching your essay, regardless of whether you refer to them directly in your footnotes or not. Again, you must follow the AGLC (or other required) protocol for the listing of all your sources in your bibliography.
- 1This explanation of quoting, paraphrasing and synthesising is based on the approach taken in a document produced by the University of Adelaide’s Writing Centre entitled “Avoiding Plagiarism”. It is available at: https://www.adelaide.edu.au/writingcentre/resources/avoiding-plagiarism
- 2Graham Spindler, ‘The Separation of Powers: Doctrine and Practice’ (2000) 12 LegalDate 5, 5.
- 3Graham Spindler, ‘The Separation of Powers: Doctrine and Practice’ (2000) 12 LegalDate 5, 5.
- 4Graham Spindler, ‘The Separation of Powers: Doctrine and Practice’ (2000) 12 LegalDate 5, 5.
What is Collusion?
Students are often unclear about what “collusion” is for the purposes of the ANU’s Academic Misconduct Rule. This may be because, in tutorials and lectures, students are encouraged to ask questions and to talk about their understanding of the concepts and issues at hand. They are also often encouraged to exchange ideas with fellow students in study groups. Confusion about the meaning of collusion may also be because the definition in the Academic Misconduct Rules is not a particularly clear one. That definition is in Rule 8:
- For the purposes of this instrument, collusion means the involvement of more than one person in an instance of academic dishonesty.
Academic dishonesty is not defined in the Rule but collusion needs to be understood in the context of the general principle of academic integrity which, essentially, prohibits academic dishonesty:
The academic integrity principle
- The academic integrity principle is the principle that a student’s work is genuine and original, completed only with the assistance allowed according to the rules, policies and guidelines of the University.
- In particular: (a) the academic integrity principle requires the words, ideas, scholarship and intellectual property of others used in the work to be appropriately acknowledged; and (b) a person is in breach of the academic integrity principle if the person engages in collusion.
These two rules set the parameters for what is and is not permissible in terms of working with others. Working in a study group and sharing ideas in that context are not examples of collusion – they are part of the “learning” phase of your study in a course and do not relate to the production of “a student’s work” in the way referred to in Rule 5. Indeed, they can be very helpful opportunities to articulate your ideas and to debate your understanding of important concepts with others.
The production of items for assessment - the creation of “a student’s work” - must be undertaken without the help of others (unless this is expressly allowed by the assessment instructions in instances of group assessment). That goes for all pieces of assessment, no matter how big or small: from 5% WATTLE quizzes, to 50-100% research essays.
Two important phrases clarifying the concept of collusion in Rule 5 are the requirement that student work is “original” and that it has been “completed only with the assistance allowed according to the rules, policies and guidelines of the University.”
There are some very important policies and rules that deal with assessment (including the need for work submitted for assessment to be completed by the individual student). For example, the Assessment Rule 2016, defines the term “examination” to include “any task required to be performed by a student for the assessment of the student’s performance in the coursework”. So, every piece of assessment you undertake is officially an “examination”. This has important implications for the purposes of the rules relating to examinations posted on the ANU website at: http://www.anu.edu.au/students/program-administration/assessments-exams/examination-conduct. It also has implications in relation to the Discipline Rules, since it is potential misconduct, under Rule 3(2)(k) of the Discipline Rule 2015, if a student “fails to comply with the University’s instructions to students at, or in relation to, an examination [ie piece of assessment].”
In addition, it is particularly important to remember that you are making a declaration in relation to your work every time you submit a piece of assessment. Clause 16 of the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy states:
All assessment task submissions, regardless of mode of submission, require agreement to the following declaration by the student:
“I declare that this work:
- upholds the principles of academic integrity, as defined in the University Academic Misconduct Rules;
- is original, except where collaboration (for example group work) has been authorised in writing by the course convener in the course outline and/or Wattle site;
- is produced for the purposes of this assessment task and has not been submitted for assessment in any other context, except where authorised in writing by the course convener;
- gives appropriate acknowledgement of the ideas, scholarship and intellectual property of others insofar as these have been used;
- in no part involves copying, cheating, collusion, fabrication, plagiarism or recycling.”
Accordingly, whenever you submit work, you are declaring that your work is your own and that you have not colluded with anyone else in producing it. Only when there are express written instructions authorising group work is working with or consulting others in producing your assessment pieces permissible.
What about working with someone else to prepare a summary?
You should read the document on this website about the risks of plagiarising when you use someone else’s summary in an exam. This is a separate and distinct question: whether it is permissable to prepare a summary with someone else. The product that you create in the context of assessment must be your own work. If you and a fellow student have an identical summary from which you will quote in your exam, your work will not be original. So, whilst discussing the content of a summary with another person in preparation for an exam is permissible, the product that you take into the exam (and from which you quote) must be your own.
In the absence of express written permission, every item of assessment that you produce must be completed by you, on your own; and must contain your own original ideas expressed in your own words (unless you properly acknowledge the ideas and words of other scholars). If that is not the case, you are in breach of the academic integrity principle and, potentially, a number of other University rules as well.
A student may apply to the Dean for review of a decision that the student has engaged in poor academic practice or academic misconduct. An application must be made within five working days after the student is notified of the decision. After receiving an application, the Dean will make a decision in 20 working days. The decision of the Dean is final.