‌Annex 8

Checking for plagiarism in a research degree dissertation and dealing with plagiarism if detected

1. As set out in Section 9.2.4 of this Code, all dissertations submitted for a research degree are subject to checking for plagiarism. The procedure to be followed is set out in Fig 8.1 below and the subsequent text:

Fig 8.1

2. Submission to Turnitin

Details of how to submit dissertations to Turnitin will be provided in faculty guidelines which will be made available to students at least twelve months before their final submission date.

3. No plagiarism

If the check confirms no plagiarism, the dissertation will be sent for examination.

4. Suspected plagiarism

If the check reveals suspected plagiarism, then

4.1.  The School will notify the Head of School and the faculty Graduate Education Director as soon as possible, in writing, with the relevant evidence. 

4.2.  The Graduate Education Director will convene a Faculty panel to investigate the suspected plagiarism, and the panel will interview the student. The panel will consist of at least three academic members of staff without previous direct involvement with the student, including:

i. A member of the student’s home school, and

ii. A member of a school other than the student’s.

4.3.  The faculty Graduate Education Director must appoint a nominee with appropriate experience to chair the panel. To maintain impartiality, the faculty Graduate Education Director must not chair or be a member of the panel.

4.4.  The Faculty Education Manager (or nominee) will attend to provide advice on regulations.

4.5.  The student may be accompanied at the interview by an adviser, friend or other representative. This could be from the Just Ask team at Bristol SU.

4.6.  Notes will be taken of the interview, which will subsequently be agreed with all parties.

4.7.  Information and evidence circulated to the panel will also be made available to the student in advance of the panel interview.

4.8.  The purpose of the interview shall be to determine whether or not plagiarism has occurred and to allow the student to make representations and to present mitigating factors.

5. Preliminary decisions

The panel will first decide whether the student has committed the offence of plagiarism.  If the panel decides that the offence has not been proved, no further action will be taken under this procedure. 

Where the panel finds that the offence of plagiarism has been proved, the panel will decide whether or not there is evidence of dishonesty, defined as a deliberate attempt by the student to obtain an unfair advantage.

6. Procedure if there is no dishonesty

If the panel is satisfied that there is no evidence of dishonesty, it will write to the Research Degrees Examination Board (RDEB) to recommend a penalty taken from the list below. The report to RDEB will set out the finding of plagiarism, a brief summary of the evidence considered, the factors that the panel took into account in reaching its conclusion and the penalty it recommends. A copy of the recommendation will be sent to the student.

The final decision as to the penalty will be reached at a full meeting of RDEB.  After consideration of the report from the plagiarism panel, RDEB may:

i. impose no penalty beyond recording the case on the student’s school file for future reference, either permanently or for a specified period;

ii. require resubmission of all or part of the dissertation;

iii. exclude the student from the award of the degree, which may be either permanent or for a stated period, and may be absolute or subject to compliance with stipulated requirements; or

iv. award a lower qualification than that for which the student was registered where regulations permit this.

The penalty will depend on the seriousness of the offence. It will normally be assumed that mitigating circumstances will have been raised by the student in advance of the submission. However, any exceptional mitigating circumstances will be taken into account when determining the penalty.

If the penalty imposed is resubmission of all or part of the dissertation the student will be given a deadline for the resubmission, not exceeding four weeks from the date of notification by RDEB of the decision.

Details of the allegation and penalty will be recorded in the RDEB minutes, with a copy on the student’s school file. The Academic Quality and Policy Office will keep a central record of such plagiarism cases and report them to Education Committee annually. Cases of plagiarism in a dissertation submitted for a research degree should normally be mentioned in student references, but only if a record of plagiarism remains on the school file at the time when the reference is requested.

7. Procedure if there is dishonesty

If the panel considers that there is evidence of deliberate dishonesty, or if the candidate and the panel are not able to agree, the matter should be dealt with under the Student Disciplinary Regulations. In place of a report to RDEB, the panel will make a recommendation to the Vice-Chancellor, through the University Secretary, to this effect.

Where an offence of plagiarism is dealt with under the Student Disciplinary Regulations, RDEB may impose only the penalty or penalties that it is directed to implement under the Disciplinary Regulations in respect of that offence.

8. Where plagiarism is suspected by examiners

In cases where examiners suspect plagiarism during the assessment process, the procedure set out in Sections 4 to 7 above will be followed. The examiners will provide a report setting out the details of the suspected plagiarism to the School as evidence to inform the deliberations of the panel convened under Section 4 above.

If examiners have any suspicions of plagiarism prior to the oral examination then the assessment process will be halted so that the plagiarism procedure may be completed. Continuation of the assessment process will depend upon the outcome of the plagiarism procedure.

If an examiner suspects plagiarism during the oral examination, they may ask questions of the candidate to inform their view more fully. If the concerns remain, the oral examination will be stopped. The internal examiner (or Independent Chair if present) will inform the candidate that the oral examination has been stopped due to the suspected plagiarism that has arisen. The internal examiner (or Independent Chair if present) will then notify the Academic Quality and Policy Office. The examiners will provide a report setting out the details of the suspected plagiarism so that it may be investigated through the plagiarism procedure. Continuation of the examination process, including a rescheduled oral examination, will depend upon the outcome of the plagiarism procedure.