School of
Information Technology and Electrical Engineering

The School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering (ITEE) has developed its own guidelines around student misconduct to explain the concepts of academic merit, plagiarism, collusion and other misconduct and to provide information to students that will assist them in avoiding actions that could lead to penalty.

By avoiding and reporting misconduct, students can help to uphold academic standards of the University and the value of the qualifications they obtain.

These guidelines have been developed around the following areas:

Academic Merit

Students must understand that assignment and project work submitted for assessment must consist of original effort.

Sometimes work submitted by students is appropriately referenced, but effectively contains nothing but the referenced material this does not constitute original effort. Even though the work submitted might not technically be plagiarised, because the sources are cited, there is no academic merit in simply copying from others. Submission of such work is unacceptable.

Examples:

  • Submitting design or code that has been copied from the web, and acknowledged, but then submitted exactly as found on the web.
  • Submitting a report that is essentially nothing but a long rendition of work from a technical report or text written by others.

It is a fundamental requirement of academic work at University level to demonstrate an understanding of ideas through original interpretation and application. Academic merit also involves the demonstration of new findings and the advancement of ideas and concepts, relative to rigorous and transparent standards.

Originality can be derived through generation of ones own ideas, concepts, code, designs and text and can also be obtained through synthesis of ideas, concepts, code, designs and text from multiple sources where that synthesis clearly adds value. Both synthesis and completely original work are ways of demonstrating that the concepts learned have been understood and/or applied.

Academic instructors in the School of ITEE have been advised that work without academic merit should be awarded a grade of 0 or 1 (on a scale of 1-7) and that assessment criterion for assignments and examinations should reflect this.

It is important to note that it is not a matter of misconduct to submit work that merely has no academic merit. To be classified as a matter of misconduct, there must be evidence of plagiarism or collusion.

Plagiarism

To plagiarise is to knowingly present someone elses work or a part of someone elses work as your own. This is a serious academic offence.

The University defines plagiarism as:

Plagiarism is the act of misrepresenting as ones own original work, the ideas, interpretations, words or creative works of another. These include published and unpublished documents, designs, music, sounds, images, photographs, computer codes and ideas gained through working in a group. These ideas, interpretations, works or works may be found in print and/or electronic media.

The following are examples of plagiarism where appropriate acknowledgement or referencing of the author or source does not occur:

  • Direct copying of paragraphs, sentences, a single sentence or significant parts of a sentence
  • Direct copying of paragraphs, sentences, a single sentence or significant parts of a sentence with an end reference but without quotation marks around the copied text
  • Copying ideas, concepts, research results, computer codes, statistical tables, designs, images, sounds or text or any combination of these
  • Paraphrasing, summarising or simply rearranging another persons words, ideas, etc without changing the basic structure and/or meaning of the text
  • Offering an idea or interpretation that is not ones own without identifying whose ideas or interpretation it is
  • A cut and paste of statements from multiple sources
  • Presenting as independent, work done in collaboration with others
  • Copying or adapting another students original work into a submitted assessment item

To get a passing grade, work must be of sufficient standard that it meets the academic merit criteria and not be plagiarised. Of course, plagiarised work has no academic merit by definition and therefore will be awarded a grade of 0 or 1 (on a scale of 1-7) as well as possibly resulting in the initiation of misconduct proceedings.

Help on how to reference correctly.

Collusion

Students are encouraged to study together, but this should not result in students knowingly handing in the same or similar work for assessment this is defined as collusion. Collusion is a serious offence that is handled in the same manner as plagiarism.

On individual assignments or projects

Do not be tempted to allow a fellow student to have access to your work, even if they may be having difficulties in completing the assignment or promise to only use it has a reference for ideas. This can be construed as assisting another student to cheat and is regarded as misconduct. If a student asks to see your work after the submission deadline, how do you know that they have not been granted an extension or that they are willing to lose marks for a late submission? They could still gain an advantage from copying your work and you would have assisted them to do so.

Do not ask another student to lodge your work on your behalf.

While students are encouraged to share concepts and experiences related to the understanding of courses studies, care must be taken not to exceed reasonable boundaries in relation to assessable material so that the individuality of each solution is preserved.

Well-judged, high level discussions and working through a similar tutorial problem with colleagues are certainly within the bounds of reasonable cooperation. However, this must not be done in the context of the size or complexity of the problem.

Collaboration that is too close can lead to students arriving at the same solution. The School has dealt with cases where students claimed to discuss the assignment early on and then went their own ways. The problem has been that they went too far and have worked together to the extent that they have produced very similar pieces of work.

The personal struggle of solving problems successfully is a vital part of developing an individuals good understanding, experience and expertise. It should not be avoided by unreasonable dependence on another persons efforts.

Another example is an assignment problem that involves a solution that is essentially correct or not. Publicly displaying a partial solution, such as on a notice board or e-bulletin board, could lead to copying that is regarded as misconduct. The provider of the material can be accused of misconduct.

On team assignments or projects

Just as collaboration between individuals on assignments can go too far, collaboration between teams can also be excessive. Do not plagiarise the work of other teams or work out solutions and approaches jointly. Teams sometimes allocate tasks to individual members to share the load. However, as the individual is completing the work on behalf of the team, other members must do their best to ensure each member is conducting themselves with academic integrity, to minimise the likelihood of accusations against the team as a whole.

Although a team may be required to work together to produce assessable work, usually there is some individual component, such as peer review, a report by one team member on the teams progress, or a final report of the individuals reflections on the teams work. This individual component must be your own work. If you submit as your own, work that is found to be shared, misconduct proceedings will be instituted.

If you need to state what someone else in your team has said or done, then refer to them by name. For example, in a team progress report: Joan Smith said that the source code for the interface would be completed by this Thursday.

Don't throw away your signature

When you sign an assignment cover sheet (or tick the statement on the electronic version) think about what you are doing. It is far more than simply writing your name it is a powerful symbol of your assent, your pledge and your acceptance of responsibility.

Know the Boundaries

If you are unsure of the difference between (a) using the work of others to understand your topic and to get ideas and (b) plagiarism, you should talk to your lecturer, tutor or Course Coordinator.

Similarly, if you are unsure of the difference between (a) collaboration and (b) collusion, you should talk to your instructor. The safest way to avoid trouble is to simply do your own work and to never share or show your work to others.

Examples of academic misconduct

Don't think quantity doesn't matter. Some students have been careless about referencing and collaboration on pieces of assessment that carry a relatively lower value or grade. They have wanted to get the work done quickly and easily in order to concentrate on larger projects and have been willing to risk the loss of marks.

What students must realise is that the academic standards are not scalable to the size / worth of the assessment. A guilty finding of misconduct is a guilty finding. A subsequent guilty finding will carry a harsher penalty.

What are the chances of getting caught?

At the very least, a sample of submitted work, whether it is an essay, computer code, device or schematic, will be checked by markers for originality. This checking may be random within a course, regardless of the size of the class, and will usually involve exhaustive checking for plagiarism and / or collusion.

ITEE Course Coordinators of programming courses routinely use MOSS software (Measure of Software Similarity) for detecting possible cases of plagiarism, which identifies where students seem to have programming code the same or very similar.

MOSS is a very sophisticated tool that can be applied to a wide variety of programming languages. It compares every students assignment against every other students assignment and produces a list of student pairs ordered by the percentage overlap of the assignments. It can be configured to take into account support libraries every student is expected to use and to ignore similarities if the approach is common to many students. It cannot be easily fooled by changing variable names, code or changing comments. Typically Course Coordinators use MOSS as a trigger to highlight potential problems and they then look more closely at the relevant assignments to ascertain whether there is evidence of possible collusion or sharing of code to determine if it really is a likely case of plagiarism or merely coincidence.

MOSS compares codes, structure and even the format of work, highlighting where similar line spacings and indents have been used which might indicate electronic sharing of code.

An example of a MOSS report which has identified similarities between two pieces of code.

Since 2001, ITEE has investigated more than 1000 students for misconduct, leading to formal allegations against more than 750 students. The vast majority were found guilty. Penalties ranged from having to do extra work in the course to expulsion from the University.

The use of University computer and laboratory facilities

Students are entitled to use facilities under the Schools usage conditions for computing laboratories and facilities.

In the past, problems have been experienced with:

  • Consumption of food and drink in rooms
  • Tampering with lab equipment (including unplugging lab equipment to power personal laptops)
  • Stealing paper stocks
  • Working alone in engineering labs
  • Using proximity cards to allow access to other students
  • Abusive language in newsgroup postings
  • Internet downloading of material not related to studies

Such behaviour is regarded as misconduct. Students are reminded that, for safety and security reasons, electronic surveillance takes place in a way that individuals can be identified.

What are the penalties?

The University takes misconduct seriously enough to have it as a Statute, a decree which it is authorised to make under the Act of Parliament that governs the University. Statute 4 covers Student Discipline and Misconduct.

Students accused of misconduct will be invited to a formal hearing with the Head of School, Executive Dean or Disciplinary Board, which will proceed regardless of the students attendance. If found guilty penalties include:

  • Student being given a grade of zero for the assessment piece
  • Cancellation of credit for the course
  • Suspension from the University
  • Expulsion from the University

Recently the University expelled a student who had been found guilty of plagiarising his assignment for the second time and revoked the award of a degree for a student who plagiarised parts of an honours thesis. Names of students who are found guilty will be published on a noticeboard and a record of proceedings will be placed on an official University file, for reference in case of a second offence.

Ignorance is not a defence

The UQ Student Charter sets out your rights and responsibilities.

All course profiles include statements about academic misconduct, while all laboratories and computer rooms carry reminders about use of facilities. Students issued with proximity cards for room access sign a statement that they have read and understood the conditions of the use of facilities and that they will abide by their responsibilities.

Assignment cover sheets include statements about academic misconduct and require you to sign that the work being submitted is your original work. These signed statements can be used in evidence.

Students charged with misconduct represent only a small fraction of people in the School. Most students are upset by the behaviour of misconduct by fellow students and the implications it has for the value and quality of their degrees. The University, Faculty and School take collusion, plagiarism and the submission of work devoid of academic merit very seriously and will act to eliminate this kind of behaviour.

Consultation - our doors are open

Students who are concerned about perceived weaknesses in our system or the behaviour of other students or staff members, in relation to the topics covered in our guidelines, are encouraged to make an appointment with the Head of School or another senior academic or general staff member to discuss these concerns. Confidentiality is guaranteed.

Academic Integrity Online Tutorial

The UQ Academic Integrity Online Tutorial explains why academic integrity is a core value of UQ and why it matters to you as a UQ student. The tutorial is compulsory for all UQ students. A link to the tutorial website is displayed when you log into mySI-net. The tutorial takes about 30 minutes and covers topics that you may not be aware of, such as auto- or self-plagiarism, collusion and when to reference sources. Link to the tutorial here.