University support to avoid plagiarism – Student’s perspectives

Angelique Chettiparamb and Lucy Newton, Henley Business School;


Four enterprising and enthusiastic students from different programmes in Henley Business School enquired into the effectiveness of School/University measures to enhance and promote academic integrity. The students were Eilish McDonald, Hetvi Shah, Prinal Shah and Tillie Hunter The project leads were Dr Angelique Chettiparamb (Real Estate and Planning) and Dr Lucy Newton (International Business and Strategy).


  • To review the support mechanisms available to students at School/University level to help promote and sustain academic integrity in programmes within the Henley Business School.
  • To engage with other students to understand their level of engagement with training and support mechanisms relating to academic integrity available across the University.
  • To suggest ways of improving student support mechanisms to promote and enhance academic integrity of students in Henley Business School.
  • To build positive fruitful student/staff partnerships
  • To strengthen the student voice in policies, procedures and practices adopted to enhance academic integrity in the Henley Business School.
  • To foster personal and professional leadership among participating students.


Developing academic integrity is a challenge across the University. The challenge is likely to increase with the rise of ‘essay mills’, the increasing pressures on students to achieve and the now widespread adoption of plagiarism detection tools such as Turnitin. Dr Chettiparamb and Dr Newton, as previous and current Directors of Studies in Henley Business School, led this project to understand the challenges of maintaining academic integrity from a student perspective.


This project was funded (£500) from the UG programme budget of the Henley Business School by Dr Carol Padgett. It followed from a Teaching and Learning Development Fund (TLDF) project on academic misconduct involving student focus group discussions.

Steps in implementing this project were:

  • Four students from diverse programmes across Henley Business School were chosen from those who had previously volunteered in the TLDF project.
  • The students were briefed about this project.
  • Students themselves defined aims, deliverables and methods of inquiry.
  • The students identified and evaluated available material to enhance academic integrity across Henley Business School/University.
  • Participating students interviewed their fellow students to capture and understand different student perspectives and challenges relating to maintaining academic integrity.
  • The academics leads met the students in regular follow-up meetings to ensure support, provide encouragement and continue productive partnerships.
  • The students presented well-received insights and recommendations to key T&L staff in Henley Business School, to CQSD and to Student Union representatives.
  • The student’s perspectives and the student experiences were recorded for later dissemination.


Students were tasked to present their perspective on current support materials and activities available in Henley Business School/University and suggest improvements in order to help enhance academic integrity. Areas of improvement that they suggested were:

  1. a) A booklet written by students and for students from existing material with practice exercises.
  2. b) More peer student support to ensure that academic integrity is fully embedded;
  3. c) More academic tutor support for aspiring and promoting academic integrity as well as positive staff-student partnerships;
  4. d) Briefing sessions and in-class exercises (rather than online alone) to strengthen academic values and support academic integrity.
  5. e) Significant and sustained Students’ Union involvement in raising awareness across the University;

Points a) b) and d) are being addressed through two follow-on projects initiated by the academic leads and funded by Dr Susan Rose, School Director of Teaching and Learning, Henley Business School. We understand that the Students’ Union is considering point e).

The student’s presentations led to inspired discussions, de-brief meetings with wider staff and agreements to take forward their ideas through additional on-going student-led funded projects.


The activity proved to be successful and inspiring as it forged new staff-student dialogues, empowered Eilish, Hetvi, Prinal and Tillie and enabled the student voice to be heard in policies, procedures and practice. It has spawned further projects, continuing and refining dialogues with students on embedding academic integrity.

As academics, the project has enabled us to see ways and means of effectively fostering academic integrity in tandem with students. This has proved to be a sustainable and rewarding approach to improve academic integrity. It has kindled further interest in the subject and encouraged us to disseminate our experience more widely. Through the project, the students have also facilitated inter-school and inter-disciplinary dialogues at staff as well as student levels.

The students themselves have benefited from the project in a number of ways. They have gained confidence through multiple interactions with staff and student colleagues and have presented in different formats to various audiences. Their journey has scaled from within Henley Business School, through the University of Reading to beyond the University of Reading. The students have taken ownership of the project and as a result have constructed their own learning experience.

Fabulous Plagiarism by Professor Peter Kruschwitz

Niccolò Perotti, the Italian humanist, preserved a collection of fables ascribed to the ancient Roman fabulist Phaedrus. This collection, commonly known as the Appendix Perottina, contains a poem called Prometheus et Dolus (‘Prometheus and Trickery), subtitled De ueritate et mendacio (‘Of Truth and Falsehood). It reads as follows:

Olim Prometheus saeculi figulus noui

cura subtili Veritatem fecerat,

ut iura posset inter homines reddere.

Subito accersitus nuntio magni Iouis

commendat officinam fallaci Dolo,                                                 5

in disciplinam nuper quem receperat.

Hic studio accensus, facie simulacrum pari,

una statura, simile et membris omnibus,

dum tempus habuit callida finxit manu.

Quod prope iam totum mire cum positum foret,                            10

lutum ad faciendos illi defecit pedes.

Redit magister, quo festinanter Dolus

metu turbatus in suo sedit loco.

Mirans Prometheus tantam similitudinem

propriae uideri uoluit gloriam.                                                        15

Igitur fornaci pariter duo signa intulit;

quibus percoctis atque infuso spiritu

modesto gressu sancta incessit Veritas,

at trunca species haesit in uestigio.

Tunc falsa imago atque operis furtiui labor                                 20

Mendacium appellatum est, quod negantibus

pedes habere facile et ipse adsentio.

Simulata interdum initio prosunt hominibus,

sed tempore ipsa tamen apparet ueritas.

‘Once upon a time Prometheus, creator of a new era, had, with meticulous care, moulded the figure of Veritas (‘Truth’), for it to be able to dispense justice among humankind. Suddenly called away by a messenger of the great Jupiter, he relinquished his workshop to devious Dolus (‘Trickery’), whom he had recently accepted as an apprentice. The latter, burning with zeal, with crafty hand, while there was time, created an effigy of the same appearance, the same stature, equal also with regard to every limb. As he had already almost finished this marvellous work, he ran out of clay, to craft the feet. The master came back, whence Dolus, struck with fear, rushed to sit down in his place. Prometheus, in admiration of such similarity, wanted the glory of his own work to be seen. Thus he put both statues in the kiln simultaneously; once they were fired and had life breathed into them, venerable Veritas walked with measured gait, but the handicapped copy was stuck in her step. Then the false image and result of stolen work was called Mendacium (‘Falsehood’) – and I readily agree myself with those who claim that Falsehood lacks feet. False copies every now and then can be to the credit of humankind, at first; but with time truth herself will appear nonetheless’.

Dolus’ plagiarism of Prometheus’ inspired work was discovered immediately, it did not even need to stand the test of time. The false copy did not do the wrong-doer any good: Prometheus revealed the ineptitude of Dolus’ work, using the kiln as plagiarism-detection device – the divine potter’s Turnitin, so to speak.

A simple story, with a simple, agreeable moral.

Or is it?

Fables supposedly teach a lesson, and an important lesson to learn is that the moral of a fable, literally its bottom-line, is not always exactly what a poet actually wanted the readers to appreciate: fables are a thoroughly and utterly subversive genre. So perhaps one should read the fable once again.

Prometheus, whose name means ‘Fore-Thought’, is more than the potter of a new age: he is presented by the poet of this piece as the inspired, inspirational creator of ueritas, truth, and he is also an educator, a magister.

Is Prometheus a good educator?

There is room for reasonable doubt.

Prometheus, thinking ahead rather less than his own name would suggest, has accepted Dolus-Trickery as his apprentice, unimpressed by the tell-tale moniker of his pupil. Prometheus seems to be keen to promote his own art over everything else, driven by a desire for glory.

Prometheus’ pupil, in turn, is gifted enough to create a spitting image of Prometheus’ sculpture. He is let down by the lack of resources at the workshop to perfect his work. Moreover, he appears to be terrified by the return of the instructor to such a degree that he is quite literally afraid to stand up for his own (replica) work.

Dolus is described as ‘burning with zeal’ (studio accensus). He is a capable craftsman, and he seems to see his time at Prometheus’ workshop as an opportunity to live up to the technical standards set by his master-educator. Dolus is not cheating, either: he merely runs out of building material, he does not make any attempt to conceal his work. Yet, the poet dismisses his work as false image and result of stolen work.

Where did Dolus go so horribly wrong, why is his Veritas nothing but Falsehood, a fake, and a lie?

The key to unlock the message of this poem is hidden in its precise middle:

Redit magister, quo festinanter Dolus

metu turbatus in suo sedit loco.

‘The master came back, whence Dolus, struck with fear, rushed to sit down in his place.’

Prometheus has let down a talented, eager pupil first by leaving him with too little resource and too little advice, and then by giving him the impression that he needs to be afraid. He has reinforced this message by the way in which he followed up on what had happened, making a mockery out of a talented student’s skillful work rather than guiding him to best practice for the future.

Worst of all, however, the educator forgot to teach his pupil an important lesson, yet a lesson that he expected him to know from the outset: it is originality that will prevail in the end, and yet this originality must be an originality that lies largely within the confines and the practices of the discipline.

To get the balance right overall, one needs practice as well as time, resource, and the opportunity to try oneself out, while obtaining firm, yet supportive advice from a teacher (who is interested in the profession, not in their own glory).

Falsehood, according to this fable, is a near-perfect truth that fails to advance. In a poetic, subversive way, we as educators are invited to consider how this could have been avoided and how we in turn may run our workshop differently.

Finally, the fable may well contain an aside remark on the impact of management meetings on the quality of one’s profession – fables are a thoroughly and utterly subversive genre – but that is a different story altogether.

Teaching students how to use references: a speaker and a ‘toolkit’ by Dr Kim Shahabudin, Helen Hathaway, Clare Nukui, Dr Liz Wilding

On Wed 5 June, rather too many people crammed into rather too warm a room to hear about where we are going wrong when teaching students about referencing practices – and a suite of teaching materials that will hopefully help us avoid such pitfalls.

Our speaker was Diane Schmitt, Senior Lecturer in EFL/TESOL at Nottingham Trent University, whose topic was Adding ‘purpose’ to instruction on the use of sources, referencing and ‘avoiding plagiarism’. Diane argued that we need to refocus on the fact that the absence of plagiarism is not equivalent to good writing. We should instead move towards a ‘pedagogy for using sources’, teaching students how, why and when to use sources in their discipline. An especially useful ‘takeaway’ message proposed encouraging students to take a staged approach to reading, starting with a short introductory text that outlined the main issues and topics before moving on to in-depth research in second-level sources which could be used to support their academic writing.  Bringing reading into the classroom can help to support ‘reading to learn’ as well as building knowledge and the comprehension of arguments.

The session also saw the launch of the Academic Integrity Toolkit, a suite of teaching materials on the practices students need to get right to avoid plagiarism. These were developed as part of a TLDF-funded project, ‘What did I do wrong?’ Supporting independent learning practices to avoid plagiarism, which brought together investigators from Study Advice, the Library and the ISLC. With brief handouts and exercise sheets, PowerPoint slides and links to screencasts, the Toolkit aims to facilitate guidance on effective study within subject teaching and in feedback to individual students. Topics include taking useful notes, citing unusual sources and writing paraphrases. The full toolkit is on Blackboard (search the Organisation Catalog for ‘Academic Integrity Toolkit’ – you can self-enrol) where slides and handout from Diane’s talk can also be found. Contact any member of the team directly for more information.

What did I do wrong? Supporting independent learning practices to avoid plagiarism by Helen Hathaway

My paper on the project What did I do wrong? Supporting independent learning practices to avoid plagiarism was well received in Manchester last week at LILAC.

What is the project about?

It is one year project at the University of Reading involving collaboration between Library staff (including a Study Adviser); staff from the International Study and Language Centre and academic staff and students from a range of Schools across different faculties. It is funded by the University’s Teaching and Learning development fund.

It is not a “how to reference” or even a “how to avoid plagiarism” project but rather embedded within the wider context of the fundamental academic principles of independent critical thinking, supported by appropriate and properly cited evidence from evaluated sources which is especially crucial in avoiding unintentional plagiarism. Students need to understand where to find appropriate sources of information in their subject and how, when and why to use references to these in their academic work to enable them to develop their arguments and achieve the correct balance between evidence and interpretation. This goes beyond simply learning the mechanisms of setting out a bibliography or when to include a citation, though these are problems that will be addressed – how to cite unusual types of materials for example. While not implying that poor academic practice in this is a  problem that is confined to international students, experience suggests it is perhaps more acute in that area; while the toolkit will be useful to all the Schools we are particularly aware of the cultural difficulties international students may face academically.

The primary output will be a digital ‘toolkit’ of bite-sized resources for academic tutors to draw on which collates evaluated teaching and support resources with guidance for adapting them for subject teaching. The aim will be to maximise their effective use with students to develop their deep understanding of “why” they should develop particular practices or skills.

The funding has allowed the appointment of a project officer to conduct focus groups and extended interviews. Other members of the team have researched existing resources both within the University and beyond and are now working on the toolkit. We are not there yet…

And what is LILAC?

LILAC is the “Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference” and is “aimed at librarians and information professionals who teach information literacy skills, are interested in digital literacies and want to improve the information seeking and evaluation skills of all our library users whoever they may be”. It is an excellent chance for professionals from across sectors and from many countries to get together to share good practice in learning and teaching and to look to the future.

My paper was part of the dissemination phase of the project and was taken in the “Collaboration and partnerships” strand. It resulted in interest in whether the toolkit  would be made available as an Open Educational Resource and of course some interesting discussion. Further dissemination will be across the sector via ALDinHE, BALEAP and hopefully JISC conferences/seminars.

The team is – myself, Clare Nukui (IFP), Kim Shahabudin (Study Adviser), Liz Wilding (ISLC) and Project Officer Rhi Smith.

Dr Kim Shahabudin also just presented this poster on the project at the ALDinHE conference in Plymouth
Dr Kim Shahabudin also just presented this poster on the project at the ALDinHE conference in Plymouth

‘What did I do wrong?’ Researching student referencing practices by Helen Hathaway, Clare Nukui, Dr Kim Shahabudin and Dr Liz Wilding

‘What did I do wrong?’ may be a sadly familiar phrase to tutors when notifying students of poor academic practice in their written work. It was chosen for the title of our collaborative TLDF-funded project because it captures the confusion and lack of understanding which is characteristic in student responses to plagiarism and poor academic practice accusations. Such accusations can destroy the confidence and downgrade the final result for otherwise intelligent, committed and hardworking students. Our project aims to uncover some of the reasons why student difficulties with referencing arise, and collate good practice teaching materials for use in subject teaching and for self-development throughout the University.

Difficulties with referencing and plagiarism are an area of concern for all HE institutions in the UK. Problems go beyond knowing how and when to write a citation. Both tutors and students regularly report a failure to understand the purpose of referencing to support a critical discussion. This inability to apply principles of rigorous independent learning goes to the heart of poor academic writing.

There have been increasing efforts on the part of academic departments and central services to provide solutions to this problem through guides, taught sessions, exercises and digital tools like Turnitin. We are all far too busy to keep re-inventing the wheel! So the primary aim of the project is to collate best practice examples of teaching materials and make them available in a format which can be easily adapted for other departments.

We also hope to discover why it is that, even where there is plentiful, comprehensive and highlighted guidance, student difficulties persist. Why are students not using – or not understanding – the guidance available? How can we best persuade them to take referencing at university seriously? We plan to include suggestions with the ‘toolkit’ of teaching materials.

While we are limited by the scope of the current project to focusing close attention on a limited number of departments, we are also planning to briefly survey academics across the university on this topic. In the meantime, we would be very happy to receive any comments, experiences or examples of good practice. Please feel free to contact any member of the project team named above.