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Information on Plagiarism and Legal Consequences

WU’s position on plagiarism is clear: Plagiarism is a serious violation of academic integrity and is punished accordingly. It is very important that cases of plagiarism or suspected plagiarism are dealt with in the same way throughout WU. For this reason, the following paragraphs are intended to provide essential information based on the Directive on plagiarism and academic fraud and the resulting legal consequences issued by the Vice-Rector, Academic Programs and Student Affairs (Richtlinie der Vizerektorin für Lehre und Studierende zu Plagiaten sowie den damit verbundenen Rechtsfolgen).

Academic papers and theses

All theses completed at WU (bachelor’s and master’s theses, dissertations) that are submitted for evaluation are routinely subjected to plagiarism detection on LEARN. Plagiarism detection software is used that scans the theses for passages that also appear in other works, mostly documents that are available online. In the case of seminar papers, i.e. for instance papers written as performance components for courses with continuous assessment of student performance, it is up to the course instructor to decide whether the papers should be subjected to plagiarism testing. Please note: The following information on plagiarism and its legal consequences applies to ALL written papers completed as part of courses at WU (including e.g. seminar papers).

Legal aspects

How is plagiarism defined?

A work is considered to be plagiarized if it incorporates texts, contents, or ideas produced by someone else and passes them off as the author’s own. This is the case especially when another person’s intellectual property is incorporated into a work without marking the elements in question as quotations and referencing the original sources and authors. In particular, plagiarism includes:

  • Quoting passages from other works without referencing the sources

  • Downloading texts (or parts of texts) from the internet and passing them off as one’s own

  • Passing off other people’s work (or parts of other people’s work) as one’s own (ghostwriting)

  • Using translations of works (or parts of works) written in another language in one’s own text without referencing the sources

  • Handing in the same text (or parts of the same text) more than once in different seminars or for different papers or theses (self-plagiarism)with


Dealing with detected or suspected cases of plagiarism

Plagiarism can entail a range of consequences, depending on the severity of the misconduct and on the time at which the suspicions arise. For detailed information on the possible consequences pursuant to the applicable study regulations and criminal law, please see the Directive on plagiarism and academic fraud and the resulting legal consequences issued by the Vice-Rector, Academic Programs and Student Affairs (Richtlinie der Vizerektorin für Lehre und Studierende zu Plagiaten und den damit verbundenen Rechtsfolgen).

Preventing plagiarism through information

To provide comprehensive information and support to WU students on matters related to plagiarism, we have added a section on the standards of academic work with a special focus on plagiarism and how to avoid it to the Student Support Area (article available in German only). The topic is also addressed in the course “Grundlagen wissenschaftlichen Arbeitens,” which is compulsory in the Bachelor’s Program in Business Law and optional in the Bachelor’s Program in Business, Economics and Social Sciences. All supervisors of academic theses are also required to provide students with comprehensive information on academic integrity before the students start working on their theses.

If you would like to develop your academic writing skills in depth, you can apply for WU’s Mentoring Program for Academic Writing, where master’s students provide guidance to groups of bachelor’s students and assist them in the process of writing academic papers (in German). For more information on the Mentoring Program for Academic Writing, please click here (page in German).


If you have any questions on plagiarism or if you have detected a case of plagiarism, please contact us by email. We’ll be happy to answer your questions or forward them to the appropriate contacts.