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What is academic misconduct?

Academic misconduct occurs when academic integrity is breached. Read on to learn about the different types and how to avoid it

Academic misconduct types


Collusion occurs when multiple students work closely on a piece of assessment together, but it is submitted as only one student’s original work. Collusion could occur through:

  • working with friends to complete an assessment piece together and submitting the same or very similar answers.
  • working through an assessment or task with others to determine the precise approach together so that your submitted assessments are very similar in content, structure and style.
  • sharing a past paper or exam answers with another current student.
  • completing an online exam with another student or students.

It can be difficult to determine what crosses the line between collaboration with friends and collusion. Collaboration involves helping others or working as a team to engage with the learning process and further understand concepts. Collusion instead involves claiming another person’s work as your own, therefore violating academic integrity. Read through some example scenarios below to gain further understanding.

Appropriate collaboration

Inappropriate collusion

Forming a study group with people in your course to understand concepts discussed in class.

Forming a group with people in your course to work together on and share answers for assessments.

Discussing which topic you selected for an assignment with another student.

Selecting the same topic as another student and working together to write the assignment.

Completing practice tests as a group to prepare for exams.

Completing examinations as a group.

Dividing work evenly among group members to complete a group assessment (as stated by your Course Examiner).

Allowing one group member to complete the entire group assessment on behalf of the group.

Pointing a friend towards helpful resources you used for a past assignment.

Sending a friend a copy of your past assignment.

Proofreading an assignment for another student by highlighting areas which could be improved.

Proofreading an assignment for another student by changing their work yourself.

Collusion is not always committed deliberately, but academic misconduct penalties apply, regardless of intention. To avoid unintentional collusion when completing work, ensure that you:
  • complete all assignment pieces individually, unless specifically stated by your Course Examiner (e.g., group assignment).
  • never share past or current assignments with any other student.
  • set clear boundaries when studying as a group.

Contract cheating occurs when a student gets someone other than themselves to complete their assessment (both with or without payment) and claims it as their own. This can be a fellow student, friend, family member, employee of the University, a commercial cheating service, or software including generative artificial intelligence. Contract cheating could occur by:

  • asking another person to sit an exam for you.
  • asking another person to write part or all of your assignment.
  • downloading part of or a complete assignment and claiming it as your own work.
  • receiving parts of or an entire assignment from a past student and claiming it as your own work.
  • paying someone or an online service to write your assignment for you.
  • solicitation of any university staff member through the offer of money or any item or service to gain an academic advantage.
  • using artificial intelligence to complete any assessment unless explicitly instructed to by your Course Examiner.

Contract cheating differs to other forms of plagiarism because it cannot be done accidentally – it is a conscious choice to commit fraud. If you engage in contract cheating, you miss out on learning experiences and fail to develop the skills necessary for life after your degree in your chosen profession. This could lead to you failing to demonstrate the expected skills to future employers.

The potential consequences for engaging in contract cheating extend further than getting caught and facing significant academic misconduct penalties. A major risk with contract cheating is blackmail, particularly when using commercial cheating services. There have been cases of cheating services threatening to report students to their university or employer unless they pay further sums of money. Blackmail can occur long after you engage in contract cheating, and can be one-off or ongoing.

There are other, smarter choices you can make if you find yourself in a tough spot and considering contract cheating. UniSQ provides Study Support, assessment extensions, and other support services to help you in your studies.  

Contract Cheating (Artificial Intelligence)

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) when completing assessment is considered a form of contract cheating. As generative AI uses data and information from sources available to it, any output produced is someone else’s work, so claiming AI output as your own work violates academic integrity. Unless your Course Coordinator explicitly grants permission to use AI for your assessment, artificial intelligence cannot be used for any assessment item at UniSQ. Contract cheating using artificial intelligence could occur by:

  • using generative artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT for your assessment.
  • consulting with chatbots about your assessment.
  • running your assessment through proofreading software that is able to produce content or significantly change the structure and tone of your writing such as Grammarly Premium.
  • failing to correctly reference artificial intelligence use in your assessment (if AI use is permitted by your Course Examiner).

The use of AI limits the learning process and prevents you from learning crucial thinking, researching, and writing skills that employers expect from graduates. Artificial intelligence is not always accurate, and can generate incorrect, outdated, or biased content. It also fails to credit where and from who it has found information, which is plagiarism.

If artificial intelligence has been permitted in your course, you are still required to credit its contribution through referencing. Refer to UniSQ referencing guidelines to see how your course’s referencing system states you should reference artificial intelligence. If you are uncertain as to whether artificial intelligence is permitted in your course, please contact your Course Examiner.

Misrepresentation and falsification occurs when students represent data or information incorrectly, improperly, falsely, or it is intentionally misleadingly. It can be intentional (through falsifying research, data collection, or deliberately misquoting) or unintentional (through poor writing and referencing skills). It is important to note misrepresentation and falsification does not pertain to the use of persuasive language or differences of opinion, provided students are not trying to be intentionally misleading or biased.

Misrepresentation and falsification could occur through:

  • the falsification or invention of research, experimental data or statistics.
  • referencing made-up sources.
  • inserting an existing but unrelated reference into your assessment.
  • misquoting a source to justify an unrelated point in an assessment.
  • submitting falsified practical or performance reports, including untrue statements about attendance, performance activities or equipment used.
  • presenting untrue statements or reports about attendance and participation in learning activities, mandatory tutorials or laboratory skills.
  • submitting Turnitin originality reports that falsely represent the originality of your completed assessment item.
  • submitting falsified information or doctors’ certificates when applying for assessment extensions.
  • providing false excuses for missing assessment deadlines.
  • falsely claiming to have submitted work by assessment deadlines when you have not.
  • falsely claiming to have submitted the incorrect assessment file at time of submission.

It can be tempting to try to justify a point you have already written about by searching for articles that prove your statement and ignoring those that do not. This not only demonstrates poor research skills and violates academic integrity, but also undermines the point of researching in the first place. The purpose of researching is to gain skills and proficiency in your chosen area of study, while contributing to the academic community. When research is misrepresented or falsified it retracts from your learning experience and the wider academic community in your field of study.

Misrepresentation and falsification are not always committed deliberately, but academic misconduct penalties apply, regardless of intention. To avoid unintentionally committing academic misconduct though misrepresentation and falsification. 

  • plan your assignment before you start writing.
  • use a referencing system or software such as EndNote to keep track of sources.
  • look for bias in sources.
  • ensure your sample size is big enough to be reliable.
  • use a wide variety of sources to support your argument.
  • ask for support from lecturers, supervisors, or other UniSQ staff when you need it.

Plagiarism is a broad term for presenting other people’s work as your own, without crediting them. There are many different types of plagiarism, which can be seen in detail in the drop-down menu below. Plagiarism is not limited to written text – plagiarism also includes copying other forms of media such as video, audio, pictures, diagrams, statistics, or computer programs and codes without correctly referencing to acknowledge this contribution. Some examples of plagiarism include:

  • paraphrasing someone else’s work without referencing the source.
  • directly copying someone else’s work without referencing and including quotation marks.
  • referencing an unrelated piece of work in your assessment to justify a point.
  • incorrect or inaccurate referencing.
  • having someone else write your assignment for you and claiming it as your own work.
  • using artificial intelligence to write your assessment.

Anytime you are using someone else’s work or ideas, you must credit their work by referencing. You can directly quote work or paraphrase – both forms require referencing. Referencing styles vary depending on courses and programs. The correct referencing system for your course can be found on your StudyDesk course page, or by asking your Course Examiner. Use the UniSQ referencing guides to ensure avoid academic misconduct by referencing correctly.

Plagiarism is not always committed deliberately, but academic misconduct penalties apply, regardless of intention. To avoid unintentional plagiarism when completing work, it is best to plan your assignment prior to writing. This includes:

  • Gathering a wide range of sources to draw from.
  • Writing a clear thesis statement.
  • Developing paragraph structure.
  • Keeping drafts.

For help with assessment writing and avoiding plagiarism, please contact the UniSQ Library for support.

Self-plagiarism is the unauthorised use of one's own work, in part or in full, for multiple submissions. Self-plagiarism includes:

  • presenting your own previously submitted assignment, or a portion of it, from the same course which you were previously enrolled, without express permission from the Course Examiner.
  • presenting your own previously submitted work, or a portion of it, in another course or assessment item without citation or referencing.

It can be tricky to understand why self-plagiarism is considered academic misconduct, after all, it’s only your own work right? But it’s not that simple.

Self-plagiarism hinders your engagement and learning process. Reusing assessment items demonstrates a lack of effort and engagement in your course and your area of study. It also shows that you have not taken on any feedback from previous assessment and limits your potential for improvement. Self-plagiarism within assessment items indicates that you do not fully understand the importance of academic integrity and referencing.

To avoid self-plagiarism when retaking a course, you should:

  • select a different topic to write about for your assessment piece (if acceptable); or
  • re-write the assignment to include new and original work; or
  • gain express permission from your Course Coordinator to reuse portions of your previously submitted assessment item and acknowledge this contribution through correct referencing.