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:

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.

In exceptional circumstances, where there are contractual, security or safety obligations and where this has been approved by the Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor (PGR), a manual check on academic integrity and plagiarism will be undertaken by the supervisors with the outcome reported to the candidate and to the Academic Quality and Policy Office (see Section 9.2.3).

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

1.1.  The School will notify the Head of School and the Faculty PGR Director as soon as possible, in writing, with the relevant evidence. 

1.2.  The Faculty PGR Director (or nominee) will consider the evidence and, where there is only minor poor academic practice, may forward the case to the Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor (PGR) who may decide that the student re-presents their dissertation for comparison checking with correct referencing, with any necessary support provided by the student’s supervisors. Where this is agreed by the Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor (PGR), the poor academic practice will be documented on the student’s record.

1.3.  In all other cases, the Faculty PGR 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.

1.4.  The Faculty PGR Director must appoint a nominee with appropriate experience to chair the panel. To maintain impartiality, the Faculty PGR Director must not chair or be a member of the panel.

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

1.6.  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.

1.7.  Notes will be taken of the interview, which will subsequently be circulated all parties.

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

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 committed, the panel will also determine the seriousness of the plagiarism, taking the following factors into account:

i.           Whether it is the first or subsequent offence; and

ii.          The extent and significance of plagiarism in the dissertation.

6. Referral to the Research Degrees Examination Board

The panel will write to the Research Degrees Examination Board (RDEB) to recommend a penalty taken from the list below. In cases of serious plagiarism, the panel may also recommend that a non-academic penalty be considered. 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, together with any mitigation put forward by the student. 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 re-presentation 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. However, any mitigating factors reported by the plagiarism panel will be taken into account when determining the penalty.

If the penalty imposed is re-presentation of all or part of the dissertation the student will be given a deadline for the re-presentation, 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 University Academic Quality and Standards 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.

Where RDEB considers that an academic penalty is insufficient due to the serious nature of the plagiarism, it may instead refer the case to be dealt with under the Student Disciplinary Regulations as set out in Section 7 below. RDEB will not impose any penalty itself in those cases but may make a recommendation to the Vice-Chancellor for a specified academic penalty to be imposed alongside any non-academic penalties made under the Student Disciplinary Regulations.

7. Procedure in the event of serious plagiarism where an academic penalty is considered insufficient

If RDEB considers that the plagiarism is so serious that a penalty other than an academic penalty should be considered, the matter should be dealt with under the Student Disciplinary Regulations. RDEB will make a recommendation to the Vice-Chancellor, through the University Secretary, to this effect, including a recommendation for a specified academic penalty to be imposed alongside any non-academic penalty.

Where an offence of plagiarism is dealt with under the Student Disciplinary Regulations, the Vice-Chancellor (or nominee) will make the final decision on penalties and may impose any penalty or penalties available under the Student Disciplinary Regulations and the specified academic penalty recommended by RDEB

8. Where plagiarism is suspected during or after the assessment process

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.

If plagiarism is suspected after the oral examination, the procedure set out in Sections 4 to 7 will be followed to the extent practicable.

Where an award has been made and the student is no longer registered at the University, any allegations of plagiarism should be referred in the first instance to RDEB for investigation. The investigation will be conducted in such a way as RDEB considers reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances with the aim of ensuring a fair process. The outcome of the investigation will be reported to the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education), who may consult with the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) before reaching a decision on the case. If the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education) considers that the award has been improperly obtained, the case will be referred to Senate for consideration of whether or not to recommend to the Board of Trustees that the award be withdrawn under Ordinance 16.