Use this page to find out more about collusion and how you can avoid it.


What is Collusion? 

The ability to collaborate, or work together, is an important skill within both the university environment and the world of work. Being able to adapt the ideas of others, divide tasks equally and help others to understand key concepts are all valuable attributes that will help to secure your success. However, it’s important to recognise that when it comes to university assessment, some forms of collaboration are considered to be unethical. This is called collusion

Collusion is when two or more people work together to produce a piece of work which they then submit as their own. Any work that you submit for assessment must be created independently. The only exception to this rule is if your tutor has set a group assignment and in this case, it will be made clear that you are encouraged to work together to produce a single output for assessment. 

The University has produced its own guidance on cheating and plagiarism in exams and assessments. This webpage shares some short videos outlining the consequences of collusion which can include disciplinary action, and what you can do to prevent unfair means while studying at the University of Sheffield. 

Peer Support or Plagiarism? 

As part of the assignment-writing process, you will almost always need to draw on the work of others. This might include a quote or paraphrase from a book chapter, a set of statistics from a recent research paper, or an explanation of a key concept from a lecture that you attended. It is important, however, that the work you produce is your own, with any ‘borrowed’ content clearly referenced and signposted in order to avoid plagiarism. The same rules apply when using the work of other students.While it can be helpful to talk through key concepts or ideas with your peers, you should consider primarily using high-quality sources from peer-reviewed journals and chapters to build your argument(s). 

Assessed work will usually be submitted through Turnitin. This is a text-matching tool used by the University to detect plagiarism. After submitting your work, Turnitin scans webpages, essay mills, publications and previously submitted work to produce a similarity score. This score is the percentage of text that matches the scanned sources; a score of 0% shows that no matches have been found, while 100% means that all the submitted text is matching. It is likely that your assignments will contain some text matches because you will be building on the work of others and drawing on a range of material, but if you have submitted your own work, you have nothing to worry about! You can read more about Turnitin here.

301 Recommends: Peer Support or Plagiarism? 

This resource will test your understanding of the common scenarios in student life that are or are not considered unfair means and what it means to engage in collusion.

How Can I Avoid Collusion?

If you’re unsure, ask!

It is likely that your tutor will encourage you to work with your peers, as this can help to clarify key concepts and expose you to alternative points of view, but do not assume that this means that the assessment is a group assignment. If you are required to work with other students to produce a joint output, this will be made clear to you through the assignment guidance and your module handbook. If you have any queries, it is best to confirm the requirements of the assignment with whoever has set it (this is usually your module tutor). 

Be careful with your work

It is your responsibility to ensure that your work is not replicated or reproduced. For this reason, it’s important that you do not lend your work to your coursemates, even if it is small sections or individual paragraphs that make up a larger piece of writing. You may have shared your work in good faith, but any form of unfair means is treated as a serious academic offence which could result in further action being taken. 

Look for other sources of support 

Peers can be a great source of support at university, as they will be exploring the same modules and learning alongside you. If you are concerned about the possibility of collusion, however, there are other services available to you at the University. For example, the 301 Academic Skills Centre offers workshops, 1:1 appointments and online resources exploring study skills, maths and statistics. The Writing Advisory Service provided by the ELTC is another useful resource if you would like to talk to a tutor about a particular aspect of your work, such as sentence structure or linking of ideas, without the worry of engaging in collusion.

Tips and resources

  • Leave yourself with plenty of time to complete assignments so that you aren’t reliant on the work of your peers. If you struggle to manage your time effectively, this webpage shares some helpful tips and resources.
  • Keep clear, understandable notes. This way, you’re less likely to get confused about what is a direct quote or an idea proposed by somebody else. You can find guidance on effective note-taking here.
  • Make sure that your referencing skills are up to scratch. The Library offers online tutorials and workshops if you’re unsure what and how you should be referencing.
  • Don’t be tempted to commission work or make use of paid proofreading services. If you need help with developing your proofreading skills, you can book a tutorial with a Study Skills Tutor or consult this online guide.
  • View the digital learning guidance on accessing and interpretting your Turnitin Similarity report (login required)
Image advertising the 301 Academic Skills Centre newsletter

Be the first to hear about our new and upcoming workshops!

The 301 Academic Skills Centre newsletter is a fortnightly email for study skills, mathematics and statistics.

Be the first to find out about our:

  • new and upcoming workshops,
  • special events and programmes, and
  • new and relevant online materials and resources.