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

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 framework.

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 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 educate trainees in appropriate writing skills.

Teaching

As part of the induction teaching for the first years, e-learning on what constitutes plagiarism (and why it is important not to engage in it knowingly or accidentally) is included in the curriculum. 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 a member of staff. Trainees are also encouraged to use the university's resources on avoiding plagiarism. 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. A number of practices have been implemented:

  1. The programme uses Turnitin plagiarism detection software to check all written submissions before they are sent to markers. This software checks both against published work and past submissions so that any reliance on work submitted by previous trainees can be detected. A
  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 at marker 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 will also be checked using other databases such as Google Scholar and, if necessary, hand searching through relevant articles.

Investigation process and sanctions

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 individual tutors 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. The reader should collate materials and submit these to the Chair or Deputy Chair of the DClinPsy Exam Board, who will in turn refer the issue to the Division of Health Research's Academic Officer 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. 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. The Academic Officer may also recommend to the programme that Concern or Fitness to Practice procedure is considered with respect to the trainee as a result of the plagiarism.

For assessed pieces of work (non-thesis)

  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 it to the Chair or Deputy Chair of the DClinPsy Exam Board, who will in turn refer the issue to the Division of Health Research's Academic Officer.
  2. Where plagiarism is suspected by a marker then s/he will liaise with the coordinator of the assignment, who will follow the above procedure.
  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.. The Academic Officer will then decide whether plagiarism has occurred.
  4. If the plagiarism is considered 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 out for marking.
  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 submission attempt for that assignment. .
  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 recommend outright fail of the submission attempt for that assignment.
  8. If plagiarism is deemed to have occurred, the Academic Officer may also recommend to the programme that a Concern or Fitness to Practice procedure is considered with respect to the trainee as a result of the plagiarism.

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 or their Deputy. It is not appropriate for the viva to go ahead where there are serious concerns regarding plagiarism. The procedure to be followed in such circumstances is detailed in section PM8 of the university policy. An investigation should be held before any viva takes place. . In the event that the examiners find evidence of a breach of the University regulations involving plagiarism as defined above, the examiners shall not make an award but shall instead report on their findings to the Deputy Head of the Student Registry who will pass it to the University's Standing Academic Committee for consideration, who will adopt one of the conclusions laid out in section PM8.5.3 of the above policy. As above, if plagiarism is deemed to have occurred, the programme's Concern or Fitness to Practice procedure may considered with respect to the trainee as a result of the plagiarism. Details of the appeal process at all stages of this process are outlined in the university's policy documents.