Questions about Referencing and Academic Misconduct

Questions about Referencing and Academic Misconduct

Here are some of our most Frequently Asked Questions about Referencing and Academic Misconduct.  If you can’t see your question answered – or would like more specific advice on your personal situation – please don’t hesitate to contact us at the Advice service at UWTSD Students’ Union.  We’re independent of the University, and won’t discuss your case with them without your permission.


In University-level assignments, you need to make clear what are your own insights and ideas, and what you’ve taken from other sources (and what those sources are). You also need to do this in a consistent way, following the agreed format. This is ‘referencing’.

For instance, if you quote directly from someone else, you need to make it clear it’s a direct quotation (by using “quotation marks”). Moreover, even when you write someone else’s ideas in your own words, you still need to use referencing to indicate where the idea itself came from.

If you don’t use referencing, you might be ‘stealing’ other people’s ideas and using them in assignments as if they were your own. This could end up with you being found guilty of Academic Misconduct – and the penalties for this within the University system can be quite severe (even up to expulsion).

There are four different ‘styles’ of referencing in use at UWTSD. You can find the style of referencing required for your programme in your Programme Handbook.

Each of the four styles has a Referencing Handbook, provided by the Library, which talks you through step-by-step how to reference.

If you’re still not sure how to reference correctly:

• Your Academic Liaison Librarian will be on hand to help you.

• The Library runs InfoSkills workshops on Referencing and Plagiarism: The Basics.

• You can always ask your lecturers! Don’t forget that referencing was once a new and difficult concept for them too.

You can also contact us for advice if you’re still unsure where you stand, and we’ll point you towards the right source of support.

Plagiarism is one type of Academic Misconduct. UWTSD’s Academic Misconduct Policy defines it as this: “Plagiarism” – presenting someone else’s work or ideas as the student’s own; Using another author’s work

This doesn’t just mean copying someone else’s work. It can also mean, for instance, reading a journal article and using the ideas from it, but without mentioning where the ideas have come from – even if you used your own words.

The Academic Misconduct Policy makes it very clear that you can be found guilty of Academic Misconduct, even if it was accidental, or you simply forgot to mention your sources.

For this reason, it’s very important that you take the time to understand the referencing requirements for your course.

You can find out which referencing style your programme uses in your Programme Handbook, and the Library offers a full Referencing Handbook to help you reference correctly.

You can also contact us for advice if you’re still unsure where you stand, and we’ll point you towards the right source of support.

Some University staff refer to Academic Misconduct as ‘Unfair Practice’. However, the correct, up-to-date term in the regulations is Academic Misconduct.

If you’ve received an e-mail and you’re not sure what it’s about, contact us for advice.

No – ‘poor academic practice’ is not as serious as Academic Misconduct, and there’s no official penalty (although you’ll have scored a low mark for referencing on this assignment).

However, you should treat this feedback as an ‘alarm bell’ and make sure that you take the time to understand referencing.

The Academic Misconduct Policy defines ‘poor academic practice’ as follows:

3.1.2. “Poor Academic Practice” – is judged to be a minor breach of standard academic conventions, such as poorly attributed or incorrect referencing to a limited extent, or over-reliance on referenced material. This also includes failure to adequately understand and follow assessment instructions.

If the feedback states that there is evidence of ‘poor academic practice’, this suggests that the markers might have been concerned enough about your referencing that they felt it was important to debate whether there was evidence of Academic Misconduct.

Make sure that you read the feedback carefully to understand why the markers have raised this concern about your work. If you’re still not sure, contact your lecturers for clarification. You can also contact us for advice.

Unfortunately, no, they won’t. The Academic Misconduct Policy states clearly:

2.5. A claim that Academic Misconduct has been committed unintentionally or accidentally is no defence.

13.9.2. Where the explanation relies solely on a claim that the academic misconduct was committed unintentionally or accidentally or that the academic misconduct was committed due to mitigating circumstances or a long-term impairment, the student will be deemed to have accepted the allegation of academic misconduct.

If you try to rely on the defence that you just didn’t understand the rules on referencing, the University will respond that it’s your responsibility to understand them (and ask for support if you’re not sure). They will also remind you that they explained the rules in your induction (and perhaps at other times in your course too) – in other words, they’ve given you opportunities to understand the rules.

If you believe that you weren’t actually informed about how to reference correctly – or that the guidance that the University gave you on referencing was misleading – you might be able to make a Formal Complaint. Contact us for advice.

Unfortunately, no, they won’t. The Academic Misconduct Policy states clearly:

2.6. A claim that Academic Misconduct has been committed due to mitigating circumstances (irrespective of whether or not these circumstances have been acknowledged by the University) is no defence.

13.9.2. Where the explanation relies solely on a claim that the academic misconduct was committed unintentionally or accidentally or that the academic misconduct was committed due to mitigating circumstances or a long-term impairment, the student will be deemed to have accepted the allegation of academic misconduct.

If you try to rely on this defence, the University will say that you should have declared the issues in your personal life (or any health problems) in the correct way (i.e. by applying for Extenuating Circumstances). The University’s message is that it’s better to submit a correctly-referenced assignment that’s not your best work (or is late), rather than an assignment with evidence of Academic Misconduct.

If you believe you had a case to apply for Extenuating Circumstances, but didn’t apply on time (and you can show why), you might have a case for Academic Appeal. Contact us for advice. However, it’s important to bear in mind that, even if your Appeal is successful, it won’t change the fact that the University has found evidence of Academic Misconduct – so the Academic Misconduct penalty might still stand.

If your friend helps you to ‘proofread’ your work, there are very strict rules that they have to follow. According to the Academic Misconduct Policy:

30.2. A proof-reader may check for, identify and suggest corrections for errors in the text. In no circumstances should a proof-reader edit a student’s writing (for example, amend ideas, arguments or structure) as this will compromise the authorship of the work.

Section 30 of the Academic Misconduct Policy states what a proof-reader can and cannot do for you. The key point is that the proof-reader can draw attention to problems in your writing – but they can’t write any of the words or sentences for you.

If you ask someone to help you with your work, make sure that you:

• Share Section 30 of the Academic Misconduct Policy with the proof-reader, so that they don’t accidentally ‘over-correct’ your work and get you in trouble.
• Keep ‘before’ and ‘after’ versions. That way, if you’re accused of Academic Misconduct, you can show that you and the proof-reader followed the rules.

Do not assume that your friend or proof-reader will understand UWTSD’s regulations, just because they’ve helped UWTSD students before.

If you’ve been accused of Academic Misconduct, even though you believe you have followed the rules on proofreading correctly – or if you have any more questions about what a proof-reader can or cannot do – contact us for advice.

Buying an essay, instead of writing your own, is a huge mistake.

UWTSD’s Academic Misconduct Policy includes buying an essay from a company under the definition of ‘Contract Cheating’: “Contract cheating” – where someone completes work for a student who then submits it as their own, including:
• use of an essay writing service or buying work online;
• arranging for someone else to impersonate a student in relation to an assessment;

Under UWTSD’s Academic Misconduct penalties, the maximum penalty is expulsion from the University.

We’ve also heard of students being harassed (and even blackmailed) by the company or individual that sold the essay.

It’s easier for the University to discover that a student has bought an essay than you might think. For instance:

• Although the company or individual selling the essay claims that the essay is original, they might have sold the same (or a very similar) essay to another student. Turnitin (the University’s plagiarism detection software) will pick this up very quickly – even if the essay was sold to a student at another university.
• Many ‘essay mills’ (companies that sell essays) use the same, generic, low-quality sources in their referencing over and over again. This makes it easier for lecturers to spot possible ‘essay mill’ essays.
• Your lecturers will be more familiar with your style of speaking and writing than you might think. If they notice inconsistencies in your written expression, this might prompt them to investigate.

In short, buying an essay is always a bad idea. There are better sources of support available.

If the problem is that your friend isn’t sure how to reference correctly:

• The Academic Liaison Librarian will be on hand to help them.
• The Library runs InfoSkills workshops on Referencing and Plagiarism: The Basics.
• Your friend can always ask their lecturers! Don’t forget that referencing was once a new and difficult concept for them too.

If the problem is that there are personal or health reasons why your friend won’t be able to get their assignment in on time:

• Your friend can contact Student Services at their campus to find out what support is available. Student Services offers a range of dedicated disability, mental health and general wellbeing support.
• Your friend can also apply for Extenuating Circumstances against the assignment, up to 3 weeks after the deadline. They’ll need evidence to support their claim. We can help guide your friend through this process, so contact us for advice.

This doesn’t mean that you’ve already been found guilty of Academic Misconduct. However, it does mean that your lecturers are concerned that an assignment that you’ve handed in might not be entirely your own work.

This ‘oral examination’ or ‘viva’ – usually chaired by the Academic Misconduct Co-ordinator for your programme – is your chance to show that the assignment IS entirely your own work. It’s important, therefore, that you prepare for this carefully:

• The SC05 Academic Misconduct Investigation Form attached to the e-mail will explain why your lecturer believes that there might be evidence of Academic Misconduct. Make sure that you’ve understood why your lecturers are concerned, and that you’re ready to address all of their points.
• Re-read your assignment, so that you’re familiar with it. They might ask questions about the content, to check that you fully understand what you’ve written.
• Have the resources that you used to write the assignment to hand during the viva, so that you can show how you wrote it. If you have drafts of your writing, have those to hand too.

You’re allowed to bring a friend to support you (though make sure that you inform the Academic Misconduct Co-ordinator in advance). However, the person that you bring can’t speak for you at the meeting or intervene on your behalf.

You can also ask the Academic Misconduct Co-ordinator to rearrange, if you’re not available at the time offered.

You can contact us to see if a member of the Advice team is available to join you at the viva. Or, if you’d rather go alone or bring someone else to the viva with you, we can also offer advice on preparing for it.

If you don’t turn up to the viva, the Academic Misconduct Co-ordinator will treat this as accepting the allegation of Academic Misconduct. (If you do wish to accept the allegation, it’s better simply to accept it in writing, to save the time and effort of organising the viva!)

Please contact us for advice on this e-mail (or any e-mail about Academic Misconduct) as soon as possible – the earlier you contact us, the more support we can offer you.

Before you respond, read the e-mail and attachments carefully. The e-mail should state:

• Which Module, and which Components of the Module, have suspected Academic Misconduct. It should also state what percentage (%) of the Module the affected Components are worth.
• Whether this is a first or second (or higher) alleged offence. If it’s not a first alleged offence, it should also state whether the Academic Office is regarding this alleged offence as ‘concurrent’. If it’s ‘concurrent’, this means that the Academic Office will treat it as having happened in the same time period as the first offence.
• The date by which you have to respond – this should be within 14 days. Check that the correct date has been given! Mistakes are sometimes made.
• The penalty that will be applied, if you Accept the allegation. The e-mail won’t say what penalty will be applied if you Deny the allegation.

You should check the attached SC05 Academic Misconduct Investigation Form:

• In Section B of this Form, look at the ‘Details of Alleged Academic Misconduct’. Make sure that you understand exactly why the Module Tutor referred your work to the Academic Misconduct Co-ordinator. Also, look at the Academic Misconduct Co-ordinator’s comments.
• Also, look at the ‘Extent of alleged academic misconduct’. The extent – from ‘Minimal’ to ‘Severe’ – has an impact on the penalty imposed.

In Section D of this Form, you can explain whether you wish to Accept or Deny the allegation:

• If you Accept, the penalty will be what is described in the e-mail.
• If you Deny, the Academic Office will investigate. If the Academic Office agrees with your Denial, there will be no penalty. However, if the Academic Office disagrees with you, there is the risk of a more severe penalty, so please contact us for advice.
• If you wish to Deny, make sure that your statement addresses the Module Tutor and Academic Misconduct Co-ordinator’s concerns. Attach evidence – drafts of your work, proof of what materials you used to write the work, and so on – to demonstrate that this is entirely your own work. Contact us for advice on this.
• If you Deny, but your statement simply states that you didn’t understand referencing or that ‘extenuating circumstances’ led you to commit academic misconduct (or if you simply leave the statement blank), this will be treated as Accept.

You should also check the attached SC06 Academic Misconduct Penalties document. This document is quite complicated, but, in simple terms, the penalty depends on a number of factors including:

• Your level of study
• Any history of academic misconduct – in other words, whether it’s the first offence, and whether other offences are being treated as ‘concurrent’ (happening at the same time)
• What proportion of the Module is represented by the assignment (‘component’) in question
• What percentage of the assignment is deemed to be Academic Misconduct
• Whether or not you choose to Accept

Each of the above factors has a different number of ‘points’ attached to it. The higher the points total, the more severe the penalty.

The e-mail does not state exactly how many points your assignment has under this ‘points system’, or how this was calculated. If you’re not sure, e-mail to ask for an explanation, or contact us for advice.

Once you’ve sent the form to the Academic Office, the Case Officer will review your statement in Section D of the Form.

If the Case Officer feels that your statement is relying simply on ‘extenuating circumstances’ or on not understanding the rules, they will interpret this as Accepting the allegation. (If so, you’ll benefit from the less severe penalty).

Otherwise, the Academic Office will organise an Academic Misconduct Investigation Panel. This Panel will meet within 30 days. You can contact the Academic Office - – if you haven’t heard anything from them.

The Academic Misconduct Investigation Panel might invite you to give evidence. If so, they will give you at least 10 days’ notice of the meeting. This meeting is an opportunity for you to put forward your case. Make sure you have all of your evidence to hand – drafts of your work, resources that you used to write it, and so on.

You’re welcome to invite a friend or a member of the SU Advice team to join you (but not to speak at the meeting). Contact us for advice on preparing for this meeting (or if you’d like us to accompany you). You can expect to hear the outcome within 14 days of the meeting.

Once the Academic Misconduct Investigation Panel has reached its decision, you have the option to apply for a Review of Outcome, by completing the SC11 Review of Outcome Form (which you can find here).

You have up to 20 days from the release of the Academic Office’s decision to do this. Contact us for advice as early as possible with this.

To ‘win’ the Review of Outcome, you would need to meet one of the ‘grounds’ listed in the Academic Misconduct Policy:

“ irregularities in the conduct of the academic misconduct procedure, which are of such a nature as to cause reasonable doubt whether the same decision would have been reached had they not occurred”: You can apply for a Review of Outcome if you can show that the procedure for investigating Academic Misconduct (in UWTSD’s Academic Misconduct Policy) wasn’t followed correctly.

“ the existence of new material evidence which the student was unable, for compelling reasons, to provide earlier in the process”: You can apply for a Review of Outcome if you have more evidence that the Academic Office didn’t consider. However, you’d also have to show that you have a good reason for not providing this evidence at the time.

“ that the outcome was not permitted under the procedures”: You can apply for a Review of Outcome if the penalty itself was decided incorrectly (for example, if the penalty is more severe than it should have been given the number of ‘points’ your case scored under the SC06 points system).

Once you've applied for a Review of Outcome, you should receive the University's final response within 28 days. Keep an eye on your e-mails in case the Case Officer contacts you for more evidence or clarification.

There is one more option if your Review of Outcome is also rejected, or if you can't meet the 'grounds' for Review of Outcome but still believe that you've been treated unfairly. This is to submit a Complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, which is a national body that can investigate English and Welsh universities. You have up to 12 months to do this from your case closing at UWTSD. To do this, you'll need to request a 'Completion of Procedures' letter from the University, and follow the instructions here. Again, the Students' Union can help you with this part of the process, so please contact us for further support and guidance.