Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Dishonest Practice at the University of Otago

Lecture theatre seats

How does the University detect plagiarism?

The University detects plagiarism in a number of different ways:

  • Academic staff have extensive knowledge in their field so they are able to recognise material which you have included but not referenced
  • Some Departments require students to include a signed statement with their assignment, to the effect that the work which it contains is their own or, if not, that it has been correctly referenced
  • Some Departments use different software tools to check material they suspect plagiarised

All Departments and academic staff have access to a specialised originality checking tool called Safe Assign that is available through Blackboard. The use of this tool is left to the discretion of the individual departments and paper co-ordinators. It uses may include:

  • Submitting the work of all students, for a specific assignment, through Safe Assign
  • Checking an individual assignment if the marker has concerns about its originality
  • Detecting plagiarism between two or more students who have copied from one another
  • Allowing students' access to Safe Assign to submit draft and final assignments. Submitting a draft assignment gives students the opportunity to check all their work is correctly referenced before it is marked and help increase awareness of what constitutes plagiarism
  • ^ Top of Page

Safe Assign

How does Safe Assign work?

Safe Assign is an originality software tool which can report matches between sections of work submitted to it and other material to which Safe Assign has access. This includes material available on the internet and the content of other students' assignments that have previously been submitted to Safe Assign.

When you submit an assignment through Safe Assign it is checked against a comprehensive database of source material. A Safe Assign originality report is generated and a percentage mark of the assignment that matched other sources is produced. The Safe Assign match score indicates the amount of text in the assignment that matches text contained in the database. While a small percentage of 'matching' is normal, if the matching text is not referenced correctly, the assignment contains a degree of plagiarism.

Assignments submitted to Safe Assign are stored in the University of Otago Safe Assign database. The allows the assignments submitted to Safe Assign for your paper to be check against assignments submitted by other students in the University.

How do I submit my assignment?

In some Departments you may have access to submit your assignments directly to Safe Assign. If this is the case you should also have the option of submitting one draft Safe Assignment. If you choose to submit a draft assignment both you and your lecturer will receive a copy of the report generated. Submitting a draft assignment gives you the opportunity to check all your work is correctly referenced before it is marked.

You are only able to submit final assignments once. When assignments are submitted to 'Final Version' folders they are stored in the Otago database and it is these assignments that are marked. You will not be able to see the Safe Assign report when you submit your final version assignment.

Instructions on how to submit an assignment

If you have any problems submitting your file, contact the Helpdesk or your lecturer.

How do I view my report?

Instructions on how to view your report

What does my report mean?

There is no hard and fast rule about what score constitutes plagiarism. The Safe Assign report provides a percentage probability that the text in your report matches text stored in the database. Please note the score is only a warning indicator and you should review your paper to see if the matches are properly referenced.

Safe Assign reports are divided into three sections:

1. Report information: This section lists information about your paper such as the author, percentage matching and when it was submitted. It also includes options to download, email or view a printable version of the report.

2. Suspected Sources: This section lists the sources that have text that matches the text of your paper. You can select sources, exclude them from the review and process the paper again. Processing the paper again will generate a new value for percentage matching without using the excluded sources.

3. Paper Text: This section shows the submitted paper. All matching blocks of text are highlighted. Clicking a matching block of text will display information about the original source and the probability that the block was copied from the source.

An example report and further instructions on how to interpret your report

^ Top of Page

What will happen if I am involved in dishonest practice?

University of Otago dishonest practice procedures

At the University of Otago there are two levels of plagiarism:

Level One relates to a first offence where the student's actions may be regarded as inadvertent or naive and contributed to by a lack of understanding of acceptable academic practice.

Level Two relates to a repeat offence, actions capable of being seen as deliberate, circumstances where the student can reasonably have been expected to understand acceptable academic practice.

Authority for dealing with dishonest practice

Complaints of plagiarism classified as Level One plagiarism are handled by the relevant Head of Department.

All other complaints, including Level Two plagiarism, are referred to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (or nominee) of the Division within which the assessment or examination was conducted.

Dishonest practice in relation to the preparation or submission of a thesis is dealt with by the Deputy-Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise)


If you are involved in a dishonest practice investigation you will:

  • Receive a letter informing you of the allegation.
  • Be given the opportunity to meet and discuss the complaint with the Head of Department, Pro-Vice-Chancellor or nominee (see Authority for Dealing with Dishonest Practice). You are able to take a support person with you if you wish. Alternatively, you are able to submit a written response.
  • Once the investigation has been conducted, you will be informed in writing of the outcome by the Manager, Student Administration.  A letter will be mailed to you and a copy sent to your student email address.

Further information about the Dishonest Practice Procedures.

University of Otago dishonest practice penalties

The outcome of a dishonest practice case depends upon the nature of the offence. If you have plagiarised through inexperience or lack of awareness (Level One) penalties may include:

  • A warning
  • Submitting an alternative piece of work or resubmitting the piece of work concerned
  • Withholding or withdrawing the granting of terms for the subject
  • Reduced marks for the work submitted
  • Zero marks for the work submitted
  • Zero marks for the work submitted plus a reduction in final examination marks

If the offence is more serious (Level Two) the following penalties are also available:

  • Zero marks for the entire paper
  • Cancellation of any pass or passes (including those in special examinations) for any other part of the student's course undertaken in the same semester/summer school
  • Exclusion from the University

Engaging in dishonest practice will also damage your personal reputation as a student and as a member of the academic community.

Further information about the Dishonest Practice Procedures.

^ Top of Page