Unfair Means

About Turnitin and the Detection of Plagiarism and Unfair Means

Turnitin is a plagiarism detection service managed by a consortium of British universities and hosted at the University of Northumbria.

It operates by holding assessed work uploaded by staff and students, and identifying text in that work that is identical to text in other electronic resources. Once that text is identified, staff can
easily determine whether it is:

  • appropriately used (as, for example, in a correctly marked and referenced quotation, or a correctly formatted entry in a list of references) or
  • inappropriately used (unreferenced text from another source, text pasted in from a website, text copied but not indicated as a quotation...)

and therefore whether it constitutes plagiarism or not.

We are adopting the use of routine submission of essays to Turnitin for the following reasons:

  • to uphold academic standards, of which the referencing and acknowledgement of others’ work is a key element;
  • to offer support to students in improving their written work in this respect;
  • to detect plagiarism and respond to it with greater efficiency.

Read the university guidance on plagiarism and unfair means 

For guidance on the proper acknowledgement of sources in essays, see the section on referencing and citations at: ADD LINK.

Turnitin automatically creates an ‘originality report’, highlighting text identical to material held elsewhere, and giving details of that other material.

These reports will be checked by module organisers as a matter of course, and they will discuss any problems identified by the reports with the students concerned. In such cases, the student in question will need to be identified by the Exams Secretary; in other cases, essays and originality reports will be identified by student registration number, as with a paper essay, and will remain anonymous.

The reports will not normally be shared with other staff unless major problems requiring – for example – the intervention of the Examinations Officer are found.

Use of Unfair Means in the Assessment Process The University expects its graduates to have acquired certain attributes. The Sheffield Graduate
should be:

  • a critical, analytical and creative thinker
  • an independent learner and researcher
  • information literate and IT literate
  • a flexible team worker
  • an accomplished communicator
  • competent in applying their knowledge and skills
  • professional and adaptable

Throughout your programme of study at the University you will learn how to develop these skills and attributes. Your assessed work is the main way in which you demonstrate that you have acquired and can apply them. Using unfair means in the assessment process is dishonest and also means that you cannot demonstrate that you have acquired these essential academic skills and attributes.

What constitutes unfair means?

The basic principle underlying the preparation of any piece of academic work is that the work submitted must be your own work. Plagiarism, submitting bought or commissioned work, double submission (or self-plagiarism), collusion and fabrication of results are not allowed because they violate this principle (see definitions below). Rules about these forms of cheating apply to all assessed and non-assessed work.

Plagiarism (either intentional or unintentional)...

...is the stealing of ideas or work of another person (including experts and fellow or former students) and is considered dishonest and unprofessional. Plagiarism may take the form of cutting and pasting, taking or closely paraphrasing ideas, passages, sections, sentences, paragraphs, drawings, graphs and other graphical material from books, articles, internet sites or any other source and submitting them for assessment without appropriate acknowledgement.

Submitting bought or commissioned work...

...(for example from internet sites, essay “banks” or “mills”) is an extremely serious form of plagiarism. This may take the form of buying or commissioning either the whole assignment or part of it and implies a clear intention to deceive the examiners. The University also takes an extremely serious view of any student who sells, offers to sell or passes on their own assignments to other students.

Double submission (or self-plagiarism) ...

...is resubmitting previously submitted work on one or more occasions (without proper acknowledgement). This may take the form of copying either the whole assignment or part of it. Normally credit will already have been given for this work.


...is where two or more people work together to produce a piece of work, all or part of which is then submitted by each of them as their own individual work. This includes passing on work in any format to another student. Collusion does not occur where students involved in group work are encouraged to work together to produce a single piece of work as part of the assessment process.

Fabrication... ...is submitting work (for example, practical or laboratory work) any part of which is untrue, made up, falsified or fabricated in any way. This is regarded as fraudulent and dishonest.
How can I avoid the use of unfair means?

To avoid using unfair means, any work submitted must be your own and must not include the work of any other person, unless it is properly acknowledged and referenced. As part of your programme of studies you will learn how to reference sources appropriately in order to avoid plagiarism. This is an essential skill that you will need throughout your University career and beyond. You should follow any guidance on the preparation of assessed work given by the academic department setting the assignment.

You are required to attach a declaration form to all submitted work (including work submitted online), stating that the work submitted is entirely your own work.

If you have any concerns about appropriate academic practices or if you are experiencing any personal difficulties which are affecting your work, you should consult your personal tutor or a member of staff involved with that unit of study.

The following websites provide additional information on referencing appropriately and avoiding unfair means:

The Library provides online information and digital literacy skills tutorials:

The Library also has information on reference management software

The English Language Teaching Centre operates a Writing Advisory Service through which students can make individual appointments to discuss a piece of writing. This is available for all students, both native and non-native speakers of English.

What happens if I use unfair means? Any form of unfair means is treated as a serious academic offence and action may be taken under the Discipline Regulations. For a student registered on a professionally accredited programme of study, action may also be taken under the Fitness to Practise Regulations. Where unfair means is found to have been used, the University may impose penalties ranging from awarding a grade of zero for the assignment through to expulsion from the University in extremely serious cases.