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All my own work: exploring academic integrity
All my own work: exploring academic integrity

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4 The consequences of plagiarism: what happens next?

If your work is flagged due to plagiarism concerns, you may feel worried or upset. As difficult as it may seem, try to stay calm.

The expression ‘bury your head in the sand’ means to try to ignore a problem, in the hope that it will eventually go away. This approach to avoiding trouble has become associated with ostriches. However, ostriches, as you may be aware, do not really do this – and nor should you.

An ostrich.

Instead, actively engage with the tutor or other representative from your institution, who has raised the matter with you.

Make sure you read all the communications you receive about the matter, follow the instructions provided and be open and honest.

Procedures are likely to vary from institution to institution, but in general terms, a formal investigation is likely to be opened, where you would be asked to explain the potential plagiarism to members of a specialist team. It is important to recognise that the consequences of plagiarism can be significant, and may depend on the circumstances, level of study and institution. Following the investigation, if plagiarism has been considered to have taken place, the outcome could range from a reduction in marks on an individual assignment, failing a module, through to expulsion from an academic institution.

Furthermore, a damaged academic record may have wide-reaching consequences in terms of future study or entry into certain professions. Students on professional programmes of study, such as social work or medicine, apprentices and those in work-based learning may have additional consequences depending on the requirements and regulations of their employer and/or professional body. Further investigations may be triggered – such as those relating to Fitness to Practice. Fitness to Practice investigations involve a multi-stage process, in addition to the Academic Conduct process, which could lead to a student being removed from a programme of study.

Whilst it is important to be aware of the consequences outlined above – please don’t panic.

A tea pot and cup on a table. The cup says ‘don’t panic’ on it

By developing the study skills needed to be able to produce work written in your own words and by gaining confidence in your own academic voice, you can avoid the consequences outlined above.

As you continue to work through this course, you should feel strengthened in your understanding of good practice, so that you do not experience the above consequences yourself.