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How do I support my students’ academic integrity?

Academic Integrity Defined

Academic Integrity has been defined ‘as a commitment, even in the face of adversity, to six fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage. From these values flow principles of behavior that enable academic communities to translate ideals to action(ICAI, 2013). 

Academic integrity focuses on positive student and staff behaviours, rather than the more negative behaviour that are emerging in higher education assessment practices, such as plagiarism and contract cheating.

Education, prevention and detection have been identified as key to addressing, in particular, plagiarism.

UCD’s Academic regulation (4.13) also highlights that a ‘student is responsible for the academic integrity of an assessment that they submit’. Assessment tasks should generate clear evidence that the work has been produced by the candidate (Bloxham & Boyd, 2008).  

‘The presentation of work, which contains the ideas, or work of others without appropriate attribution and citation, (other than information that can be generally accepted to be common knowledge1) is an act of plagiarism’ (UCD Plagiarism Policy 2005). 

Plagiarism has begun to receive extensive attention in the last number of years in higher education, in terms of its occurrence, the underlying reasons which may motivate students to plagiarise either knowingly or unknowingly and institutional approaches to dealing with plagiarism. This section will focus on what you as a faculty member can do to help educate students on plagiarism and hopefully prevent students engaging in instances of plagiarism. This section also addresses the question of detection and provides links to external resources relating to plagiarism.

Most published advice on preventing plagiarism emphasises education and prevention, over detection.  It makes more sense to develop students’ sense of academic integrity in order to deter them from engaging in plagiarism. 


You should educate your students about plagiarism and copyright issues and how to use information ethically.


Plagiarism is a serious academic offence. As good referencing is integral to the study of any subject UCD encourages students to understand that plagiarism is both a form of academic dishonesty and poor academic writing practice. While plagiarism may be committed unintentionally by the student, it is defined by the act, not the intention.


While Plagiarism is using someone else's work without crediting the original author, copyright infringement is using someone else's “... original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works”, or computer programs, databases and websites without authorisation.  The Copyright and Related Rights Act may be of interest.

UCD Library, as part of the work on information literacy skills, offers a range of supports and resources in this area:

  • UCD Library has a dedicated Academic Integrity Guide. This includes in-depth coverage of the five citation styles used in UCD, tips on writing, quotation, paraphrasing and more;
  • UCD Librarians work with module coordinators in designing, delivering and assessing information literacy skills, including the ethical use of information.  Librarians are happy to work with you in co–designing and customising inputs appropriate to your discipline and level.



Assisting Students in Avoiding Plagiarism

In early stage modules, prior to issuing the first assessment to students, and as part of clarifying the assessment task and criteria, provide students with guidance on the correct approaches to citation in your discipline including conventions for paraphrasing.

  • Practice what you preach: provide a list of references at the end of each lecture using the citation style that the students are required to use;
  • As each school uses different citation styles and versions of styles, provide students with links to the relevant library citation style guides;
  • Encourage students to organise their references using electronic referencing software. UCD Library provides training in Endnote which allows students to store and manage their references, as well as create a bibliography electronically within MS Word using a number of referencing styles. The Library provides a detailed EndNote GuideThis includes the EndNote course timetable.


Self-plagiarism occurs when an author, usually an academic, reuses or recycles portions of their own previously published work without any reference or attribution to the original publication. This includes re-presenting material at conferences, or publishing very similar or identical work without acknowledging the original work. Many academic journals have codes of ethics which specifically refer to self-plagiarism, while others use a more standard reference to plagiarism. Self-plagiarism is detrimental to the research community; it wastes financial resources through journal subscriptions, inter-library loans, and results in a cluttering of the pool of research.

Avoiding Contract Cheating 

‘Essay mills’ and similar organisations have assisted in the increase in contract cheating in students’ assessments. In a recent study in Australia (Bretag, et al., 2018), students’ perceptions of cheating likelihood were highest amongst students who: 

  • speak a language other than English at home;
  • reported there to be lots of opportunities to cheat;
  • expressed dissatisfaction with the teaching and learning environment; 
  • were studying commerce or engineering, which reported the highest levels of any discipline; 
  • Furthermore, assessment tasks that encouraged cheating had short turnaround times and those that are heavily weighted and lack authenticity

Strategies to Adopt in Designing your Assessments which can help to prevent plagiarism and contract cheating: 

  • Regularly change the topics for written assignments on the module, using specific time frames or geographic frameworks;
  • Customise the assessment by asking the student to relate the topic/data to their experience or a specific context, using more authentic assessments.;
  • Use a staggered approach to the preparation and submission of written papers which could include outlines or annotated bibliographies which are submitted in advance of the final assignment;
  • Use alternative formats for assessments, including posters, briefing documents, presentations;
  • Frame assessments so that students are required to present a justification for their argument, including a critique of their choice of supporting evidence;
  • Highlight some key library resources that you expect students to use when locating information for an assignment;
  • Encourage originality, self-reflection, and individualised responses. For example, ask for applied knowledge, such as applying theories/principles X to event Y Assess process as well as outcomes, asking students:
    • How did you go about answering the question?
    • Why did you use chosen resources?


Plagiarism can be detected from some of the following indicators:

  • A change in writing or language style within a paper – a different ‘voice’;
  • Use of a mix of English/American spellings or phrasing;
  • Use of incorrect/incomplete reference details in the bibliography;
  • Use of quotations in the paper which do not have matched citations in the bibliography;
  • Unusual or poor layout of essay, for instances where material is ‘cut and pasted’, or the spacing within a paper is ‘off’;
  • Use of graphs, charts etc. within an essay where there are no matched references.

Plagiarism detection software 

Plagiarism detection software has become increasingly popular in higher education as a means of dealing with and preventing plagiarism. UCD uses Urkund/Originality Checker which is available through Brightspace. Using software to detect plagiarism has a number of advantages for both students and staff. These include:

  • Making students aware that detection software is used may have a positive impact on their behaviour;
  • For staff, using Urkund/Originality Checker provides objective evidence on whether to progress a charge of plagiarism.

Plagiarism Penalties

UCD has a Plagiarism Policy Document which you can find in the UCD Governance Document Library. The implementation of this policy can vary from school to school, therefore check to see if your school has a plagiarism protocol. 

Resources within UCD

  1. The University's Plagiarism Policy, which provides a definition and description of the various forms of plagiarism.
  2. UCD LibraryeSupports pages support the development of effective library skills. The Academic Integrity Guide has comprehensive information and advice on avoiding plagiarism and correct citation and referencing.
  3. UCD Teaching and Learning resource on Guidance on Academic Integrity in Online and At-Distance Assessments


  • Bretag, Tracey, Rowena Harper, Michael Burton, Cath Ellis, Philip Newton, Karen van Haeringen, Sonia Saddiqui & Pearl Rozenberg (2018): Contract cheating and assessment design: exploring the relationship, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2018.1527892 
  • Bloxham, S., and P. Boyd. 2008. Developing Effective Assessment in Higher Education: A Practical Guide.  Maidenhead: Open University Press McGraw-Hill.
  • Evering, L.C., Moorman, G. (2012) Rethinking Plagiarism in the Digital Age Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. 56, 1, p35-44.