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Plagiarism, Collaboration and Cheating

Your attention is drawn to the following statement in the Physics Course Handbook

The Department considers the act of cheating as a serious matter and any incident will be reported to the Head of Department, who will normally refer the case to the University Proctors.

It is unacceptable to:

  • cheat during oral or written tests
  • copy the work of others and submit as your own
  • falsify and/or invent experimental data

Plagiarism (passing off somebody else's words or work as your own) is a form of cheating. The Department subscribes to the University's policy on plagiarism - see See also the Proctors' notice on the Notice Boards or at

The golden rule to follow in all these areas is:

Examiners must be in no doubt as to which parts of the submitted work are not your own original work and are instead the rightful property of someone else.

Collaboration is an essential part of scientific research work, and of your learning experience. For example, in the practical classes, some experiments are designed to be carried out individually while for others collaboration with other students is required. Discussion among students and with demonstrators and Heads of Class is healthy and encouraged and you may use any help or insights gained in these discussions to improve your experiment, your understanding of the physics and your written report. However, your report must be written by you, following the guidelines on writing reports, and only data collected in your experiment by you (and your partner if it was collective work) should be presented as your own.

Plagiarism is the passing off of another persons work as your own. Students found guilty of plagiarism can face disciplinary action which may include failing their course. The department is committed to identifying plagiarised work submitted by students for assessment, and in some courses the department uses electronic detection software to help flag up examples of plagiarism. The department policy is based closely on the University Plagiarism Policy document1.

How to avoid plagiarism?

Students should make sure that when presenting other peoples ideas or work that it is properly referenced so that:

  • any direct quotes should be marked with quotation marks and a clear reference of its source given;
  • any ideas that you present that are not your own, should be referenced;
  • any figures or diagrams copied from books or papers should be referenced as coming from that source;
  • direct paraphrasing of the work of others should be indicated as such and be presented with a reference;
  • copying work from online sources should accompanied by appropriate URLs;
  • the derivations of formulae should be cited.

Copying of another students work, also counts as plagiarism and where joint work is required, your and their contributions should be clearly indicated in the write up.

New use of electronic plagiarism software from 2012

From 2012, the department will be using electronic plagiarism software to help identify examples of plagiarism in the Part III projects, by comparing the project text with published work. The software system is called Turnitin, and students will be asked to sign a form giving consent to submit their assessed work to the Turnitin system prior to submission of their project. The project supervisor and assessor will identify projects that they think may contain examples of plagiarism and alert the Part III project coordinator. The project coordinator will check that consent has been given by the student to, submit the work to the system, and analyse the resulting Turnitin output. If plagiarism is identified, that report will form part of a file of evidence given to the head of the department who will normally refer the case to the University Proctors.

For Part III projects, it is possible that you may be applying for patent protection for some of your work. If this is the case, please inform the project coordinator and indicating which parts of the project will form the basis of that patent application. The coordinator will then ensure that part of the project is not submitted to Turnitin.

David Ward, 2008 (modified Charles Smith 2013)