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Plagiarism and Exam Cheating

Just Ask supports lots of students going through plagiarism and exam cheating processes. We’ve included some useful information below but if you’ve been invited to a panel meeting to discuss this, we would encourage you to get in touch with us as soon as possible. Send us the letter or email you’ve received from the University and also the Turnitin report or any other evidence you’ve been sent about the issue. We can then arrange a meeting to help you prepare for the panel. We know it can be stressful but the students we support tell us this really makes a difference and that they feel much better after talking to us!


What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the inclusion of any idea or any language from someone else without giving due credit by citing and referencing that source in your work. This applies if the source is print or electronic, published or unpublished, or the work of any other person.  Plagiarism can be intentional or unintentional. 

Local regulations and practice concerning referencing and plagiarism varies widely on a worldwide level. However, all students at the University of Bristol are expected to learn the specific referencing requirements here as well as familiarising themselves with the University's guidance about plagiarism. You should have received a training session on plagiarism as part of your induction. There is specific advice available about plagiarism and how to avoid it from Library Services, the Study Skills Service and within your academic school. 

You can find full information about the University's plagiarism procedures in the Exam Regulations

I’ve been accused of plagiarism. What do I do?

Don’t panic! Supporting people who have been accused of plagiarism is a big part of what we do at Just Ask. It can be very stressful to be faced with a plagiarism concern, but you are not alone and we can support you through the process. We would encourage you to have a read through the information below and then get in touch with us as soon as possible. 

All work that is submitted to the University is routinely checked through Turnitin, which is plagiarism detection software. When Turnitin identifies a certain level of similarity with other texts, the matter is flagged for checking by an academic member of staff. If it looks like plagiarism may be present, you will be invited to a Plagiarism Panel meeting to discuss the matter.  

Preparing for a plagiarism meeting

After receiving the letter inviting you to the panel meeting you should confirm that you will be attending. You should be offered the opportunity to attend by video call or to send a written statement to explain what has happened. We would always recommend that you attend the meeting.  

To prepare for the meeting take a look at the following questions that the panel will usually ask:  

  • What do you understand by the term plagiarism? Is your idea of plagiarism similar to the University's definition? If you had a different understanding of the term 'plagiarism', say so. 
  • Have you considered the Turnitin report? How would you explain the level of plagiarism highlighted by the Turnitin report? The staff in the meeting will ask you about specific examples of highlighted text from the report.  
  • How did you prepare for this assignment? Did you get books from the library? Or use on-line electronic journals? Did you look at texts suggested by your tutor or in the lecture notes? 
  • How did you organise and gather your information? Did you have a file on your computer for collecting useful notes? Or did you keep information on paper? How did you know what were your words and what were someone else's? 
  • How did you write the assignment?  
  • Do you understand what is required in terms of referencing your assignment? 
  • Have you been given information or training about plagiarism by your School? 
  • Do you have any extenuating circumstances that you would like us to consider? Mention anything that affected you or your work at the time. 
  • Is there anything else you would like to add? For example: that you've never done anything like this before, that you've asked your tutor for extra help with referencing. 

Think about what you might say in response to these questions. In the meeting you won’t be able to just read out answers but thinking about them in advance and making some notes can be helpful. 

The Turnitin report

In most cases, plagiarism will have been highlighted by a Turnitin report. You may be sent a copy of this report but, if not, you can request a copy so you are able to understand what the issues are before the meeting. The Turnitin software highlights all text which has been identified as matching another source and gives a list of the sources which are matching at the end, along with the percentage of similarities. 

When you are looking at the Turnitin report, don’t focus too much on the percentage figures, but look instead for blocks of highlighted text. If there are large chunks of text highlighted, these are the sections that you are going to need to explain in the panel meeting. Think about how this text found its way into your final document, and where it came from. 

Sometimes plagiarism is detected without Turnitin. In this case you should still be given details of what the concerns are. 

At the meeting

The meeting normally lasts about 20-30 minutes but can go on for longer in some cases. There will usually be 3 or 4 members of staff at the meeting, some of whom will be from your School and some who you may not have met before. There will also be a person who will take notes so there is an accurate record. You can be accompanied to this meeting by a friend, adviser or representative. 

At the meeting, you’ll be asked a few questions about the Turnitin report (if there is one) and about how you approached the work. The questions will be very similar to the list above.  The panel may not ask all these questions, and they may also ask other questions. At the end of the meeting, you will have an opportunity to tell the panel about any extenuating circumstances that might have impacted on what has happened and you can also ask any questions you might have. The panel will not usually tell you what the outcome will be at this meeting. They will discuss the case afterwards and decide on their recommendations.

After the meeting

After the meeting you will receive the written record of the meeting you attended. This may take several days. You will be asked to confirm that everything has been recorded accurately. You will then be told what the panel has recommended. This recommendation will be passed to the Faculty Board of Examiners for approval. The exam board will almost always confirm the recommendation. Once you receive the Faculty Exam Board decision you have the right to appeal against it. Just Ask can advise further on this if required.

What will the outcome be?

The University Regulations explain all the possible outcomes but in practice we find that the most common outcomes are: 

  • No penalty but the plagiarism is recorded on your file while you are at university in case of any future issues. 
  • To resubmit the work for a capped or uncapped mark. 
  • For lower marks to be awarded. 

How can Just Ask help?

We can help you throughout the process by explaining the regulations and procedures, helping you prepare for the meeting and helping you understand the outcome and next steps. We have worked with lots of students going through this process and we understand how worrying it can be.  

The feedback we have had from students has been really positive. In some cases students have already been through the process before without our support and after getting in touch and having us support them the second time they have said how much easier it was. So please get in touch as soon as possible, email us your meeting letter and Turnitin report, and we can help you take the next step.

Exam Cheating

What is exam cheating?

All work submitted as part of any assessment must be entirely your own. If you use other people's ideas or words these must be referenced properly. Guidance about this is available from your school, the Study Skills service and your subject librarian. There is also specific advice available about online exams

No collaboration or collusion, either virtually or physically, is allowed during digital assessments. Any suspected instances of this will be investigated and penalties may be applied. 

I've been accused of exam cheating. What happens now?

If any form of cheating in an assessment is suspected, a panel meeting will be arranged, similar to a plagiarism panel meeting. At the meeting you will be asked questions about what happened in the exam and have the chance to tell your side of the story. 

If you have been invited to a meeting to discuss a suspicion of exam cheating, get in touch with Just Ask for advice about how to prepare. We won’t judge what has happened and can give you confidential advice about how to prepare for the meeting. 

After the panel meeting

After the meeting, the panel will decide what action, if any, to take. There are a range of options available which include things like keeping the matter on file for future reference, awarding lower marks or awarding 0 marks. They will also decide whether to allow a resit and whether or not this will be capped at the minimum pass mark. 

The panel decision does not become final until it is ratified by the faculty exam board and at this point you have the right to appeal against it.