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Academic Integrity and Academic Misconduct at the University of Otago

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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

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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. This allows the assignments submitted to Safe Assign for your paper to be checked against assignments submitted by other students in the University.

How do I submit my assignment?

It is up to individual lecturers to decide whether or not to give students the option to submit and view a draft Similarity Report so they can review their work, though the University recommends allowing students to submit a draft. 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 that all of 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

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What will happen if I am involved in academic misconduct?

Further information about the Student Academic Misconduct Procedures. 

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