Frequently-asked Questions

Why does the University take plagiarism so seriously?

It is unfair to honest students, employers and the community in general for you to gain a degree by copying other people's work and presenting it as if you had done it yourself. Students who have deceived the University in this way undermine the academic standards of the course, the Department, the Faculty and the University. Students who plagiarise or otherwise cheat, undermine the standing of USQ degrees and diplomas for students who have met the requirements honestly. 

Employers and other members of the public may lose confidence in the standards of the University's qualifications if students who have not genuinely met these standards are able to gain a degree or diploma. 

What is common knowledge?

The sole exception to the rule, that all materials being used must be properly acknowledged, is if the material being used is common knowledge. Common knowledge is information that is generally known. Facts such as Canberra is the capital of Australia or John Howard was the Prime Minister of the Australia in 2004, are widely known, and can be verified in many reference sources. But a statement such as ‘John Howard's 2004 budget was criticised widely' is opinion, not fact, and must be cited.

Don't assume you know what is common knowledge; verify information in encyclopaedias, dictionaries, almanacs, and other reference works first. If you are uncertain about what is common knowledge in your discipline then find a reference and cite it.

What if I have forgotten to give references to any of my sources?

It is difficult for lecturers to believe that you are not deliberately plagiarising when you use other people's work without acknowledgement, especially as the study guide for each course has information regarding the necessity to reference your work fully. You are expected to base your work on the research literature, so it is inconceivable that you could write a whole assignment without needing to reference.

What if I have forgotten to reference some of my sources?

If you use someone else's data, ideas, words, computer code or images without acknowledging them in an isolated case in an assignment, then the lecturer may give you the benefit of the doubt.

However, forgetting to reference is a serious matter:  When you submit each assignment you are required to sign a declaration which says:

  • no part of your assignment has been copied from any other person's work without due acknowledgement
  • the assignment has not been written for you by another person.

In effect you are guaranteeing that you have not cheated and that you have meticulously acknowledged the use of sources in the work. Note that all sources utilised must be set out in a list of references, or bibliography, at the end of the assignment. This does not replace in-text referencing but is supplementary to it.

What is the difference between group work, collaboration and collusion?

Collaborating with fellow students or working in a group, either face to face or online, to share ideas and assist in the development of assignments or projects is an accepted and encouraged practice. However, unless your lecturer specifically advises you that joint or group submissions are expected, it is not acceptable for members of the group to submit identical answers by simply copying the work done as a group.

You are pretending that you have satisfied the requirements for the course, when in fact you have cheated by presenting someone else's work as your own. Collusion is a specific type of plagiarism that occurs when two or more students present joint work as if it was their own, independent work.
If collusion is suspected the University will assume that it is deliberate because you have signed a declaration with each assignment that states:

  • no part of your assignment has been copied from any other person's work without due acknowledgement
  • the assignment has not been written for you by another person.

Hence, if you study in a group, by all means discuss ideas, assignments or projects, but prepare your formal submission yourself. If you have any doubts about what is permitted in a specific course then ask the examiner for that course.

How is plagiarism detected?

Students are advised that their assessment items may be examined to see if plagiarism has occurred. Techniques include:

  • Checking students work using plagiarism detection software, such as Turnitin. Software specifically designed to search for plagiarism within computer programs may  also be used; and
  • Examination of assignments for specific sentences or unusual phrases taken from known sources eg "paper mills".

Students may be asked to answer questions concerning their assignments and provide evidence of their research. Clear examples of your research effort accompanied by effective note taking will assist you to prove that no plagiarism has occurred.

What will happen if I am accused of plagiarising?

The University has specific processes associated with minor or major academic misconduct. Refer to the Student Academic Misconduct Policy. Students are able to ask the Student Guild for representation if necessary. You are advised to always keep copies of your submitted assignments and your research materials and notes as evidence of your original work.



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