Academic integrity and plagiarism

University Centre South Devon is proud to have signed up to the QAA Academic Integrity Charter.  This charter represents the collective commitment of the UK higher education sector to promote academic integrity and take action against academic misconduct.  More details can be found here: Academic Integrity Charter (

What is academic integrity?

At UCSD, students are part of an academic community that shares ideas and develops new ones. As part of this, you need to learn how to interpret and present other people’s ideas and combine them with your own to produce academic work. This is academic integrity. 

An important part of academic integrity is making sure that you avoid plagiarism by correctly acknowledging the work of others. 

What is plagiarism? 

UCSD defines plagiarism as: 

An offence under UCSD regulations on examination and assessment offences. It is normally defined as the representation of another person’s work as your own, without acknowledging the source. 

Tackling plagiarism is important so that: 

  • You, UCSD and employers can be sure that you earned your qualification fairly and that it is of high quality 
  • You can be proud of your independent, individual work and can know that your achievements are not being undermined by the misdeeds of others
  • Students develop as independent, critical thinkers, willing and able to contribute to academic debates and developments in their chosen subject areas. 

Recognising plagiarism

To avoid plagiarising someone else’s work, you need to have a full understanding of what plagiarism is. The interactive resource below will help you better understand and recognise plagiarism.

Copyright and plagiarism 

You don’t just have to make sure that you avoid plagiarism by acknowledging the work of others, you also need to be aware of copyright and whether you have permission to use this work. 

You can use copyrighted material in your academic work for assessment purposes, subject to a number of limitations and providing it is correctly referenced. However, if you intend to use copyrighted material for any purpose other than assessment, you must get permission from the copyright owners. 

Both staff and students are expected to abide by copyright law and the various copying licences we hold. 

How plagiarism is detected 

There are several ways that plagiarism can be detected:

Lecturer knowledge

Your tutors will be familiar with the literature and ideas that are core to a topic area. They will know if you try to pass off someone else’s work and ideas as your own.

If you copy word for word from other sources, your lecturer is likely to notice obvious changes in writing style and a poor flow to your writing.

Supervisor knowledge

Your research project or dissertation supervisor will be aware of the literature in your area of research. Discuss with your supervisor how your research fits with the research of others in your field.


Turnitin is a text-matching tool. It helps academic staff to detect the originality of your work.

Penalties and procedures

For information on associated penalties and procedures in cases of suspected plagiarism at UCSD, visit our Academic Policies and Procedures page and click on the relevant link:

  • ‘University of Plymouth Examination and Assessment Offences Procedure’ for students studying on University of Plymouth validated programmes
  • ‘UCSD Examination and Academic Offences Procedure’ if you are studying on a degree programme awarded by South Devon College

How to avoid plagiarism 

Unintentional plagiarism often occurs as a result of poor academic practices. Being able to make effective notes, think critically, reference correctly, and write academically will help you to produce high-quality academic work and avoid plagiarism. 

Avoid citing your own work from previous assignments for which you have received marks already, as it is considered to be self-plagiarism malpractice. This may occur when writing final year project research or dissertations on topics previously covered during the course, for example using part of your research proposal in your final project. Ask your supervisor if it is acceptable to cite yourself in this instance, although it is more likely that you will look at the topic in greater depth and may express your arguments in a more developed way. 

It would be preferable to rewrite, based on your notes, rather than citing your actual previous essay. 

Use these resources to further develop your academic practices: 

  • Note taking and note making: tips to help you improve your note taking and note making strategies
  • Academic writing: a guide to helping you effectively incorporate your reading into your writing
  • Referencing: detailed information about different referencing styles and how to use them in writing

Do not use plagiarism detection websites 

You may have seen websites that claim to offer free plagiarism checks if you submit your essay to them. We strongly advise that you do not use any “essay checker”, “note sharing” or “plagiarism detector” service before submitting your assignments. 

Submitting your work to these “essay checker” websites may result in your essays being sold to other students and could mean that your work shows up as being stolen or plagiarised when you submit it through Turnitin. 

Working with others: collaboration not collusion 

Collaborating with other students to enhance your learning is encouraged at UCSD, but you must understand the boundaries between acceptable collaboration and unacceptable collusion. 

Your tutors will provide guidance when collaborative group work is expected, but you must recognise that there will normally be limits to the extent of this collaboration. You must not exceed those limits. 

Individual work, sometimes including specific components of group tasks, must genuinely reflect your own efforts. You must avoid any practices that could mean that you cannot honestly claim that the work submitted is your own.