Unfair Means (marking)

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Unfair Means describes any case wherein a student submitting work towards completion of an assessment violates the following principle:

  • "The basic principle underlying the preparation of any piece of academic work is that the work submitted must be the student’s own work."

Responsibility for matters relating to Unfair Means lies with the Unfair Means Officer.


University Guidance

All Unfair Means policy in the School sits within the general policies laid out by the University:

Learning and Teaching Services: Unfair Means Guidance

The University provides the following five examples of Unfair Means:

  • Plagiarism (either intentional or unintentional) is the using of ideas or work of another person (including experts and fellow or former students) and submitting them as your own. It is considered dishonest and unprofessional. Plagiarism may take the form of cutting and pasting, taking or closely paraphrasing ideas, passages, sections, sentences, paragraphs, drawings, graphs and other graphical material from books, articles, internet sites or any other source and submitting them for assessment without appropriate acknowledgement.
  • Submitting bought or commissioned work (for example from internet sites, essay “banks” or “mills”) is an extremely serious form of plagiarism. This may take the form of buying or commissioning either the whole piece of work or part of it and implies a clear intention to deceive the examiners. The University also takes an extremely serious view of any student who sells, offers to sell or passes on their own assessed work to other students.
  • Double submission (or self plagiarism) is resubmitting previously submitted work, whether submitted at Sheffield or elsewhere, on one or more occasions (without proper acknowledgement). This may take the form of copying either the whole piece of work or part of it. Normally credit will already have been given for this work.
  • Collusion is where two or more people work together to produce a piece of work, all or part of which is then submitted by each of them as their own individual work. This includes passing on work in any format to another student. Collusion does not occur where students involved in group work are encouraged to work together to produce a single piece of work as part of the assessment process.
  • Fabrication is submitting work (for example, practical or laboratory work) any part of which is untrue, made up, falsified or fabricated in any way. This is regarded as fraudulent and dishonest.

School Policy

A marker who suspects that unfair means has occurred should first consult with the Unfair Means Officer. The Unfair Means Officer will decide if it is a trivial case or a serious case:

Trivial Cases

If the Unfair Means Officer feels that the case of unfair means is ‘trivial’ and amounts only to poor or inaccurate referencing or a genuine misunderstanding of academic writing practices, then the Unfair Means Officer will add appropriate text to the feedback sheet highlighting the problem and directing the student to University guidance on unfair means. Depending on the particular case in hand, the original mark may be reduced.

The work will then be passed to the second marker to continue the marking process. In this case the student may still obtain a pass mark. If the student fails and it is the first submission, they will still be able to re-submit the coursework in the normal way.

Serious Cases

If unfair means is found to have occurred then the work will not be second marked, and a standard fixed grade of u/c will be assigned to the submission. The marker should provide feedback as normal and add this comment:

"I suspect unfair means has occurred in the production of this submission and have passed it to the Information School's Unfair Means Officer. No mark will be awarded until the Unfair Means Officer has concluded his/her investigations".

The Unfair Means Officer will inform the Exams Team, and feedback will be returned to the student as normal, but without a mark.

The Unfair Means Officer will arrange to meet with the student and the Teaching and Learning Manager, who will take minutes of the meeting. The Unfair Means Officer will go through the problematic areas of the submission with the student and give them an opportunity to respond. If it is the first submission the student will be able to re-submit the failed coursework in the normal way.

The Teaching and Learning Manager will create a summary of the meeting that will be saved on DIS and included in the student’s file. A formal letter is generated by the Unfair Means Officer and sent by email and post to the student summarising the meeting and the decision taken by the department. The letter will also highlight the consequences of subsequent use of unfair means.

Second Offense

If a student is found to have used unfair means subsequent to a formal meeting with the Unfair Means Officer and Teaching and Learning Manager, then the student will normally be reported directly to the Taught Programmes Office as a case requiring formal disciplinary action by the University Discipline Committee.

Effect on Module Marks

If the submission is one part in a multi-component assessment then the student can still pass the module overall if they pass the failed work after re-submission.

Extenuating Circumstances

If a student has extenuating circumstances that affect the case then they should complete a Special Circumstances form and provide appropriate supporting evidence. This may lead to the work being Not Assessed rather than failed.

Cheating in Formal Examinations

In the case of closed book examinations students are forbidden to communicate with or copy from another candidate. The use of notes, books or any other reference material is also forbidden and such material must not be taken into the examination hall. Students who are found cheating in an examination will fail that examination and be reported to the Registrar and Secretary via the Examinations Officer.

Advice to Students

Students receive detailed advice regarding Unfair Means in the Student Handbook (online and paper), and in the Semester 1 Essay Writing Seminar. Students are required to return a signed slip early in Semester 1 to state that they have received, read and understood this advice.

Staff should familiarise themselves with the nature of this advice, and the range of University resources to which the students are directed in the relevant section of the Student Handbook.

See also

Casual Work index

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