Avoiding Academic Misconduct

Cardiff University have fundamental core values, detailed in their Academic Integrity Policy, that they expect all students to abide by. This Policy requires you to maintain high standards of academic practice and to complete your studies in accordance with the rules.

Academic Misconduct can include plagiarism, self-plagiarism, collusion, using an external writing service such as a ghost writer or essay mill, or acting dishonestly. Importantly, you can be penalised for Academic Misconduct whether you intended it or not.



If concerns are raised about your work, the University will usually initiate an investigation under the Academic Misconduct Procedure. If academic misconduct is found in your work, the Chair of the Examining Board can

  • set your assessment mark to zero;
  • set your module mark to zero; or
  • in more serious cases, refer you to an Academic Integrity Panel for a panel hearing.

This can be a very daunting process with serious consequences, so we strongly advise that you

  • know the rules (make sure you are aware of exactly what the University deem as academic misconduct); and
  • take all necessary steps to avoid it in your work.

How to avoid Academic Misconduct

  • Plan ahead. Often, module leaders are able to give you specific information about the timeline of your assessments early on in the semester. This gives you plenty of time to plan your term and to prepare for each assignment. Once you have your assessment question or task, we recommend giving yourself a safe amount of time to plan, read, act and write.
  • Keep a note of your references as you go. Whether you are making notes from books or copying and pasting from online sources, make sure that you have a system to identify which words are your own and which are taken from another source. You can write in quotation marks or in another colour, or both. Be sure to write the reference in full by each quote, e.g. book title, author(s), page number. Not having a system of identifying and referencing quotes put you at risk of plagiarism in your coursework or open book assessments. Remember, if you copy someone else's words into an assessment and do not reference properly, you can have you work marked to zero for plagiarism (or worse), even if it was an accident.
  • Know the referencing rules for your course. The style of citing and referencing you use will depend on your subject and you can contact your Subject Librarian if you need advice on the rules for your course. For a general overview, see the 'Avoiding plagiarism: citing and referencing' tutorial, which covers plagiarism, paraphrasing and summarising, and referencing. Tutorials for specific referencing styles can be found on the University's intranet page.
  • Allow enough time for your bibliography. When writing your assignment, make sure you factor in time for your bibliography and referencing. Referencing can take a while at first but gets easier with practice. When you know what you are doing, referencing can be a simple task but it can be very time consuming. Don’t be caught out by running out of time; your marker needs to know where the ideas came from. As above, if you don't reference properly you risk your work being marked to zero (or worse) for plagiarism, even if it was an accident.
  • Try to access original sources. Similar to the above, don’t copy and paste theorists from the text you are using, but take the time to access the original sources. Turnitin will recognise where citations have been pasted as part of the original text which may create cause for concern about the research and wider reading you have done ahead of the submission.
  • Paraphrase using your own words. Unless quoting directly, with parentheses (“”), close the book/source you are using. This means it is far less likely that your work will be the same as the source, even by coincidence. Changing some words or rearranging sentences can still be picked up by Turnitin or markers of the work and can still be considered plagiarism.
  • Use exemplars as tools not lifelines. Lecturers may provide exemplar essays, papers or assignments to help students understand the task or to structure their assessment. An exemplar can be a really useful and empowering tool when you are working towards a critical deadline but copying one too closely can be considered plagisarism. Always ensure that you are using your own research and ideas in your assignment. Ultimately, you may find that your findings require you to stray from the structure of the exemplar.
  • Discussing ideas with your friends is fine but your work in individual assessments should always be your own. If you work too closely with another student, this can lead to concerns of Collusion, whereby a piece of work is produced by, or with, someone else. This is a very common definition of Academic Misconduct, and although often occurs incidentally, will be penalised through the Academic Misconduct System. It can be really helpful to share ideas with your course mates and this is likely to help you develop your understanding and think of ideas. Nonetheless, when physically writing the assessment, we would encourage you to do this alone.
  • Be careful when seeking a second opinion. It may seem sensible to have a friend proof read your assessment prior to submission to ensure that it is accurate or free from mistakes. However, if there is evidence to suggest that a colleague or peer helped you with this assessment, you may find that you are investigated for Collusion. Collusion applies to any work that has been produced ‘with’ someone else, therefore if your work has been reviewed by a peer, your School may deem this as a concern. If you are proof reading your friends work, it may be better to discuss ideas in person, rather than to physically write, comment or amend anything online or on paper.
  • Extenuating Circumstances. If you feel that you are having a difficult time at the moment and you are subsequently struggling to engage with your studies, you may be able to apply for an extension using the Extenuating Circumstances Procedure.
  • Speak to your module leader, or personal tutor if you know you don’t understand the topic or question. If you are unsure about the topic in question, you are unlikely to be the only one. In this case, we would encourage you to reach out to a trusted individual in your School, to discuss the topic in question, and ask for help before the assessment.
  • Using your previous work can be considered self-plagiarism. Another definition of academic misconduct to be aware of is self-plagiarism. This is where work is reproduced or re-presented for assessment when it has already been part of another assessment. This includes work that you may have submitted on a different course or at a different institution.


We hope that by following these steps you will avoid academic misconduct but, if you are subject to an academic misconduct investigation you can find our generic information on this page of our website, or contact us for further advice on the procedure.


Extra Support

In addition to the support provided by your Academic School, Cardiff University has an Academic Study Skills Team who are available to all students on Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught programmes. The Academic Study Skills Team can help you to develop your note taking, essay writing and time management skills to help you excel in your assessments. You may even find that, with their support, you are more able to avoid allegations of academic misconduct or poor academic practise throughout your degree.


The Academic Study Skills Team are contactable on SkillsCentre@cardiff.ac.uk. 


Contact Student Advice

+44 (0)2920 781410


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