Plagiarism and fabrication of results for the Lancaster Doctorate in Clinical Psychology: code of practice

This document, which relates to the assessment of plagiarism and the falsification of data on the Lancaster Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, sets out the programme's procedures for detecting plagiarism and falsification of data and the sanctions. The term 'plagiarism' relates to the 'unacknowledged use of someone else's work, usually in coursework, and passing it off as if it were his/her own' (Dealing with plagiarism by students; an institutional framework; p.3). It includes collusion, commission, duplication of the same work for more than one assessment, inappropriate acknowledgement of text from another source and submission of another student's work (regardless of that student's consent). Fabrication of results relates to the presentation of data or results which have not actually been collected.

This document has been produced to dovetail with the university's existing frameworks; these include 'Regulations to govern plagiarism in materials examined for the award of a research degree' (2003), 'Dealing with plagiarism by students: institutional framework' (revised: 2007) and Dealing with plagiarism by students on taught programmes (revised; May 2009). It has also been approved by the university and replaces the programme's previous document 'Plagiarism action plan' (5.5.05).

Background

The course accepts that cases of plagiarism by trainees are rare and that most trainees do not attempt to plagiarise or take part in other forms of academic cheating. However, the course also has a responsibility to make explicit its expectations in this regard and set out a policy and list of procedures to provide clarity for all involved in the assessment process. Furthermore, given the programme's status as a postgraduate professional doctorate, the implications of plagiarism in terms of fitness to practise in the NHS also need to be stated. It is also important to accept that many examples of inadvertent plagiarism can occur through a lack of knowledge of appropriate referencing devices and this document accepts that the programme has a responsibility to set out its teaching on plagiarism in order to educate trainees in appropriate writing skills. Consequently, this document sets out the programme's practices on education about plagiarism, plagiarism detection, investigation processes, sanctions in the case of plagiarism and implications for NHS training. It also clarifies what is meant by an 'assessed piece of work'.

Teaching

As part of the induction teaching for the first years, teaching on what constitutes plagiarism (and why it is important not to engage in it knowingly or accidentally) is included in the curriculum. At the end of the induction block, trainees also have had the opportunity to do and submit a number of exercises which illustrate the difference between plagiarism and appropriate referencing. If trainees at any stage in their training need advice on whether text which they are producing constitutes plagiarism or not, they are also welcome to discuss this informally with their supervisor/s. Supervisors would very much welcome informal discussions on this and where discussions are around aiming for best practice the trainees can be assured that no formal proceedings will be instituted. Nonetheless, these discussions must take place at a provisional stage; it is not appropriate to include possibly plagiarised text in work submitted, which is not brought to the supervisor's attention beforehand and then for this to be informally discussed. Trainees are also encouraged to use the university's resources on avoiding plagiarism (e.g., http://www.lancs.ac.uk/celt/celtweb/plagiarism_detection). The programme is committed to providing every opportunity for uncertainties and ambiguities to be clarified before the formal assessment stage. Consequently, this does mean that, should plagiarism be detected in a trainee's work, lack of knowledge or uncertainty about whether this constituted plagiarism will not be considered an adequate or mitigating justification. This is reflected in the disclaimer which trainees sign when submitting work (see appendix below).

A number of practices have been implemented:

  1. The programme uses the university's plagiarism detection software (Turnitin). All trainees are asked to submit their work electronically (as well as on paper) and the software is used to check the submission. This software also then checks future submissions against past submissions so that any reliance on work submitted by previous trainees can be detected. It is considered important that all trainees' work is assessed in this way as then scrutiny of a specific trainee's work is not dependent on individual markers. It also protects trainees' original work from any potential misuse. Assignments are submitted through Turnitin before they are sent to markers;
  2. Guidance on plagiarism is sent out to all markers of assessed work. This includes advice on what to do if plagiarism is suspected. It is the markers of assessed work who have the 'primary responsibility' to detect plagiarism;
  3. Plagiarism is discussed and guidance circulated at examiners' workshops;
  4. Where there are concerns around falsification of data, trainees must be willing to provide evidence of appropriate data collection;
  5. Suspected plagiarised texts are also be checked using other databases such as Google Scholar and, if necessary, handsearching through relevant articles.

Investigation process and sanctions

On this doctorate, there is a distinction between pieces of work which are required to be submitted by the programme (such as thesis and service related project proposal forms) but which are not formally assessed and pieces of work which are submitted for examination (i.e. service related projects, placement presentation and reports, professional issues essays and theses). Draft pieces of work are also submitted for feedback.

For unassessed and draft pieces of work

It is proposed that;

  1. Where plagiarism is believed to be present in either a draft or formally unassessed piece of work then this is brought to the attention of the trainee; if this is the first time during their training that it has been felt necessary to point this out then the trainee is asked to write a letter indicating why doubts about the work have been raised and how they intend to stop this from happening in the future. This information is passed to the trainee's tutor pair to note but does not indicate evidence of the instigation of any formal procedure or even evidence of plagiarism.
  2. Where plagiarism is believed to be present in either a draft or formally unassessed piece of work and this is brought up for the second time then a more formal procedure will commence. It is, consequently, important that any such incidences of plagiarism are brought to the tutor pairs. The reader will liaise with either the supervisor or the course convenor. This person will collate materials and submit these to the Academic Officer (currently Head of the Division) for scrutiny. As part of the investigation, the Academic Officer will call a meeting with the trainee to discuss the alleged plagiarism. The trainee will be informed that a representative from either the LU students' union or a colleague is welcome to attend this and another member of the programme staff will also be present. The Academic Officer will then decide whether plagiarism has occurred. If it has, then a letter attesting to this will go to the registry and will be on the trainee's file. The trainee will then be asked to respond to this letter to indicate how they will work to ensure that future work does not contain plagiarism. This letter will also be kept on file. This process will count as evidence of a 'first offence' if future evidence of plagiarism is uncovered. Depending on the seriousness of the plagiarism, a decision could be made by the Academic Officer to refer the plagiarism to the trainee's employer (currently Lancashire Care Foundation Trust). This then could activate the Trust's own disciplinary process. If the Academic Officer finds insufficient evidence of plagiarism then no formal record of this will be kept on the trainee's file.

For assessed pieces of work (non-thesis)

Currently the assessed pieces of work on the course are: the service-related project (SRP), the professional issuesassignments, the critical review and the (two) placement presentations and reports. It should be noted that when assignments go through the Turnitin software then all aspects of the submission are assessed, including sections such as (where appropriate) proposal and suitability forms.

  1. Where plagiarism in a particular assignment appears to have been detected via the Turnitin software, this assignment will not be sent for marking. Instead the coordinator of the assignment will collate the evidence and present to the Academic Officer.
  2. Where plagiarism is suspected by a marker then s/he will liaise with the coordinator of the assignment Where it seems that plagiarism might have occurred, then the marker or assignment coordinator (where the marker is external) will coordinate evidence and present this to the Academic Officer.
  3. As part of the investigation, the Academic Officer will call a meeting with the trainee to discuss the alleged plagiarism. A representative from either the LU students' union or a colleague/tutor is welcome to attend this and another member of the course staff will also be present. The Academic Officer will then decide whether plagiarism has occurred.
  4. If the plagiarism is considered relatively minor, then the trainee will receive a plagiarism warning and this will count as the first offence if they have not received a previous warning. The trainee will be asked to resubmit the piece of work with the plagiarism addressed and the work will be sent back to the original examiners for marking. This 'resubmission' will not be counted as a fail because of the plagiarism although the work could subsequently fail if it does not meet other standards.
  5. If the plagiarism is considered serious (evidence of a major first offence) and yet the trainee has no previous offences then the Academic Officer is likely to recommend outright fail of the piece of work but with an opportunity for resubmission, which will be assessed again. This will then count as one fail (three or more failures on assessed work on the course means exclusion from the course).
  6. If the plagiarism is considered serious and the trainee has had either a previous warning letter or a previous first major offence has been found, then the case is referred to the Standing Academic Committee as a second part II offence. A number of outcomes may ensue (see p.9 of the university framework), with permanent exclusion from the university a possibility.
  7. If the plagiarism is considered relatively minor and yet the trainee has received a previous warning then the trainee will be informed that any future evidence of plagiarism will be referred directly to the Standing Academic Committee as a second part II offence. The Academic Officer is also likely to fail the piece of work, but with opportunity for resubmission.

Plagiarism in the thesis

Where plagiarism is suspected in the thesis then the examiners should discuss this provisionally with the Chair of the Exam Board. Where the Chair of the Exam Board is the trainee's supervisor then this should be discussed with the Academic Officer. It is not appropriate for the viva to go ahead where there are serious concerns regarding plagiarism. A separate investigation should be held before the viva, which should be put on hold until after the outcome of the plagiarism investigation. If the recommendation of the thesis examiners is to fail the thesis then this decision is automatically referred to the Postgraduate Review Panel (PGR). The thesis examiners will need to be able to provide annotated copies of the thesis with the original sources attached. The internal examiner will be responsible for ensuring the documentation is collated. As the university includes the DClinPsy as a research degree, the regulations on assessing plagiarism in the award of research degrees allows for the Postgraduate Review Panel to recommend outright fail of the thesis at the first attempt (with no opportunity of either re-submission or re-examination) in the case of plagiarism being found. If this occurs, then the trainee will not be able to complete the doctorate so will be excluded from the course and employment terminated. Two other options are possible after referral to the PGR: 1) Where the accusation of plagiarism is unfounded, the candidate shall be examined as for the first time by a new pair of examiners; 2) Where the accusation is upheld, the trainee can be given one opportunity for revision and resubmission and can be re-examined by the same pair of examiners.

Details of the appeal process at all stages of this process are outlined in the university's policy documents.

Fitness to practise

Depending on the seriousness of the plagiarism, a decision could be made to refer the plagiarism to the trainee's employer (currently Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust). However, no informal discussions or warnings on plagiarism would be referred to the Trust and it is likely that only cases that have been referred to either the Standing Academic Committee or the Postgraduate Review Panel would be considered serious enough for this to happen. This then could activate the Trust's own disciplinary process. Allegations of plagiarism may be investigated under the disciplinary rules and procedures; this would fall under the following disciplinary rule:

iii) Stealing from the Trust, its staff, patients or public or any other offence of dishonesty, fraud or deceit.

Depending on the findings of the investigation, this may result in a disciplinary sanction in line with the Trust's disciplinary rules. If an allegation of plagiarism is proven by the Trust, this may result in termination of the employment contract on the grounds of gross misconduct.

Jane Simpson
Chair of the Exam Board
Doctorate in Clinical Psychology

Plagiarism disclaimer