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Academic Integrity Monthly: What is Collusion?

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AIM – Academic Integrity Monthly: What is Collusion?

In our second instalment on Academic Integrity, we are looking at collusion? So, what is collusion?

The University’s Handbook defines collusion as “the unauthorised collaboration between two or more students resulting in the submission of work that is unreasonably similar, but which is submitted as being the product of the submitting student’s individual efforts”. (Point 2.4.1, Handbook F: Section 6).

Unless your lecturers have specifically told you that your assignment is a group project, and that you can submit the same (or very similar) work, you should not be working with friends on the same piece of work. Submitting work that is unreasonably similar can end with both of you sat in an academic integrity meeting.

Here is an example of how collusion could be identified if you worked with a friend on the same assignment:

Class X have been given an assignment brief titled “What is your favourite animal and why?”. Student A and Student B decide to work together on the assignment, and meet in the library to discuss the brief. Between them, they decide that they will pick different animals that are very similar, so they can compile one list of traits which work for both animals. Student A picks a Koala Bear, Student B picks a panda.

They compile a list of traits which suit both animals, and why they would like them. Reasons are noted next to each trait, and once both students are happy, they copy the notes, and settle down at library PCs next to each other to write their assignments.

Student A writes:

“Koala bears are my favourite animal for a number of reasons. According to Edinburgh Zoo, they are listed as a vulnerable species and their population is unknown (Edinburgh Zoo, 2018).

Koalas are herbivores, this means they only eat plants and vegetation. This is one reason that I like Koalas, because they are peaceful. My second reason is…

Student B writes:

“Panda bears are my favourite animal for many reasons. On Edinburgh Zoo’s website, they are listed as vulnerable and their population is at 1000-2000 pandas remaining in the wild (Edinburgh Zoo, 2018).

Pandas are herbivores, which means that they only eat plants like bamboo. This is the first reason that I like Pandas, because they have a sustainable lifestyle. A second reason is…

Students A and B finish their assessments and submit them via Turnitin. Turnitin shows a high similarity, with the above areas highlighted as matching another source. The marker will then use the Turnitin similarity as an indicator that there may be plagiarism within the work. Turnitin identifies the source of the similarity, and so the marker will be able to see that the source on each piece of work is pointing at the other essay. Students A and B are subsequently invited to AI investigation meetings to clarify what has happened, and the department mark it as collusion.

The students in the example above could have completed the work separately. They may have still had some similarity if they had used the same source for information on their respective animals, however the wording is unlikely to have shown such a high similarity and flagged as a potential plagiarism/collusion issue.

“Can I get any support on how to structure an assignment?”

Study Skills are a support department within the University who offer a wide range of resources and support to help you improve your academic writing, and avoid academic integrity issues. You can find out more about them here: https://portal.chester.ac.uk/lti/Pages/study-skills-for-students.aspx

“What should I do if I do have an Academic Integrity meeting?”

If you would like further support with an AI allegation, the SU Advice team can offer advice on what will happen and can attend meetings with you if you would like representation. To get advice from the team, either fill out our “Contact an Advisor” form here on the website (https://www.chestersu.com/advice/contact/) or email us at csuadvice@chester.ac.uk

You can find out more about the Academic Integrity processes here: https://www.chestersu.com/advice/academic/academicintegrity


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