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Guidelines for plagiarism control at UiB

The guidelines outline possible control systems and procedures until the "How to deal with suspicion of cheating" takes over.

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Cheating can be disclosed by watchful readers, teaching assistants, tutors and examiners. Please contact your local department/faculty if you suspect plagiarism or other forms of cheating. Departments/faculties have procedures for investigating and following up suspected cheating. The document can be submitted for electronic plagiarism control as part of this investigation.

Cheating can also be disclosed by routine checks. UiB uses Urkund to check individual assignments as well as complete sets of assignments.

The plagiarism control program generates analysis reports that show similarity percentages and has links to documents with similar text. The report alone never triggers suspicion of cheating no matter how high the significance score might be. The report attracts attention so that the text is examined.

Manual interpretation of the report determines whether there is grounds for suspicion. After this, the investigation starts. See ‘How to deal with suspicion of cheating’

These guidelines address what the control program can be used for, how the control can be implemented, and who can control it. Technical implementation is described in "Urkund User Manual". 

The guidelines are not absolute. They describe a navigable route, but the document also discusses areas where the department and faculty themselves must choose their strategy and procedures. 

Plagiarism contorl program - What it can and cannot do

Text recognition tools can be used for different purposes. Here is a brief review of the purposes for which such tools have been used, and an assessment of how well suited they are for the different purposes.

A. Detecion of irregularities with the aim of treatment as possible plagiarism cases


Factors to watch for:

Plagiarism control programs have their limitations, for example, they:

  • to a limited or no extent can read notes, mathematical notation, diagrams, photographs, handwriting and the like.
  • cannot reveal hits against literature that is kept in closed bases on the Internet, or that are not online at all.
  • cannot detect text convergence when the author has translated from a source text in another language.
  • can only compare with the texts that are available at the time of the control.
  • cannot process a case, only help to uncover the facts (significance score). 

Determining which text similarities are unproblematic and which need to be investigated further, is not easy. It requires expertise and experience. A choice must be made between different strategies: Routine mass control, random checks, ad hoc control. Large-scale routine controls give the greatest chance of equal treatment of cases that occur.

Tip: Also, where the text recognition program is not the most suitable, it can be useful in combination with methods such as Google search, Google Scholar search, search in digital editions of curriculum books and articles or course tutors’/examiners’/judges’ own memory.

B. As a tool to learn good source use

Not very suitable

If used, it must be as one tool among several, and its use must be quite intentional. Good source use is far more than just learning the boundary between legal and illegal, and other methods must play a significantly larger role than a text recognition tool. Examples are written guidelines, library courses, teaching and practice in the academic community, the example of supervisors and seniors.

C. Checking your own work

If, for example, a master student or PhD candidate at a late stage gets help in submitting the assignment/thesis through the text recognition program to see if there are irregularities that need to be corrected before the final submission.

May be suitable, but may also incur considerable risk, such as:

  • It can give a false sense of security, since there may still be irregularities that the program cannot uncover, but that may appear later.
  • It may give a feeling of false security for supervisors and candidates.
  • It can put a supervisor in a difficult situation, especially if major irregularities are uncovered. What do you do then? Allow the candidate to correct it, or report it as a possible case of cheating? That will result in the risk of unequal treatment, and in the worst case scandals.

On the other hand, the control program can help to uncover some oversights in the reference list. In principle this should not happen, but we know it happens anyway, especially for candidates who are short of time, and many are. Supervisors and others must emphasize the need for good source management in the work process. Good tools are available for this purpose.

Recommended usage

The plagiarism control program should be used primarily for the detection of irregularities. Other methods should be given priority for training in source use.

Planning of plagiarism control

When planning plagiarism control it is important to think about what you want to control and how to proceed, who should conduct the control and who should help to assess the results. When It is determined that there is a basis for suspecting cheating, one can refer to the "How to deal with suspicion of cheating". 

The main rule should be that what can and should be checked is actually checked. The control and handling of texts and reports must be carried out in such a way that consideration to legal safeguards and privacy is secured before embarking on the fixed procedures for dealing with suspected cheating. This means that as few people as possible are involved and that no one is suspected of cheating without there being a basis for it. 

It is most appropriate for one person, or just a few, to handle the routine check. Then the controllers will be familiar with the system and receive training on how to quickly exclude uninteresting hits. It also makes it easier to ensure that sensitive information is handled correctly, and that only those who have a factual reason to know the identity of the student do so.

It may also be appropriate to create cheating committees. Some choose to have committees at the department level, others have established them at the faculty level, depending on which is most appropriate locally. The controller forwards texts to the committee that can quickly and reliably sort these and provide an expert assessment when needed. Tutors and examiners are called upon if their expertise is needed. 

It would also be appropriate, when controlling individual assignments, to allow the assignments to go via an experienced controller rather than having a practice whereby someone is given an analysis account to submit individual tasks once in a while. Consideration to equal treatment also points towards a system of permanent inspectors and committees.

When and how should the assignment be checked

When an examiner suspects cheating, exam marking is underway and things need to happen fast and according to applicable rules. There are deadlines to be observed and the examiner must know how to deal with the specific task.

There is not the same urgency with a routine control, but it should be carried out as quickly as possible. How to deal with suspected cheating describes the different procedural processes in both cases. It is nonetheless important to handle the cases quickly so that there does not go an unreasonably long time from an assignment is delivered until the student is presented with a possible basis for suspected plagiarism.

  • The student is not confronted with the suspected cheating during the finishing stage of the exam.
  • If The Central Appeals Committee exonerates the student:
    • We avoid special marking of the assignment.
    • The paper has already been given a grade that is set independent of suspicion.

Advantage of involving internal and/or external examiner

  • The report can be written while the grading is in progress.
  • The examiner is familiar with the weaknesses of the text and can take this into account in the assessment when it is determined that it should be graded.
  • If The Central Appeals Committee exonerates the student:
    • The paper has been given a grade that takes into account the shortcomings.

Assignments delivered during the semester

  • It will vary as to when it is appropriate and prudent to check such assignments. If the student has the opportunity to make another attempt, the control should take place while there is still time to consider. If a work is disallowed early in the semester results in failure to take the exam, it would be considerate to get this established at an early stage.
  • Whether it relates to a set of assignments delivered during the semester or assignments that can be revised along the way, it may be appropriate to carry out the control at the end of the semester.

Suggested procedure for routine plagiarism control

The department/faculty decides which assignments to check, when they should be checked, and who should be responsible for submission and follow-up. The above recommendations can help you plan this. Here is an example of a procedure that could work with or without special customizations.

1. Submission

  • The assignment/set of assignments are submitted for control.
  • The controller receives the analysis report(s) in an email.

2. The Controller's assessment 

  • The report recipient assesses the analysis report and text.

NB: The report is never in itself the bases for suspected cheating.

  • Very first review. Most of the texts are OK and it can quickly be seen after marking that the references and literature list are in place. Some texts are also obviously OK, only that it takes slightly longer to establish that.
  • The texts that are not OK, as well as the borderline cases that the controller will not discard on his own, are sent to the local cheating committee (department/faculty).

3. The Committee'S (Department's) assessment

  • The committee may
    • Determine that the assignment is OK.
    • Determine that the shortcomings are too insignificant to do anything about. The case is discarded without suspicion occurring. None other than the controller and committee know that the assignment has been investigated. 
    • Determine that elements of poor work; rubbish, dishonesty and ignorance, are too insignificant to do anything with other than to recommend the student in writing to change his/her practice and follow advice such as in "Search and write" and "Learn to use sources correctly".
    • Determine that the assignment should be submitted for professional assessment (examiner, course coordinator, head tutor, subject tutor) for academic, subject-specific assessment: Is there a basis to suspect cheating?

4. Academic assessment

  • The academic assessment results in a report that will follow the case if a cheating case is established. Alternatively, the academic assessment can be included directly in the case note/letter that either terminates the case or sends it over to the Appeals Committee.

5. The Department's assessment

  • The department/faculty management and the Cheat Committee, if any, will decide whether to create a cheating case on the basis of the expert report.
    • The text is assessed as OK. (In this case, the question arose because of a routine check and not because the examiner or other reader suspected cheating/plagiarism so the expert review may indicate that the assignment is OK.)
    • The text has shortcomings, but the extent and nature of poor work and ignorance suggest that a cheating case should be created. The work is considered for grading. Lack of skills and competence in the use of sources could have significance for the grade, cf. "Learn to use sources correctly."
    • A cheating case is created. The procedure is described in "How to deal with suspicion of cheating".

Assessment when the text lies between OK and Cheating

"The use of sources in written work" informs the student that "if you fail to provide (sufficiently good) references to sources, this may lead to your being awarded a poor grade, even though you have done good work in other respects." Source use and reference technique are considered when the grade is being set and poor work has consequences for the outcome. This is the result of an academic assessment and must not be regarded as punishment. If the work is of such nature that it is considered to be cheating, a cheating case should be created.