You will hear about plagiarism and good academic practice at various points throughout your studies: in the Academic Research Techniques course, when writing academic papers or theses, or even in the news. We want to make sure that you are familiar with the importance of this topic in general and its implications for WU, and that you understand why good academic practice is such a high priority for us. We would like to encourage you to look into these topics befor writing your first academic paper.
Below, you can find legal information about plagiarism and its consequences.
A work is considered to be plagiarized if texts, contents, or ideas produced by someone else are being passed off as the author’s own work. This is the case especially when parts of texts, theories, hypotheses, findings, or data are incorporated into a work verbatim or in paraphrased or translated form without identifying these elements as quotations and referencing the original sources and authors (§ 51  item 31 of the Universities Act 2002 [Universitätsgesetz, UG]).
Academic fraud/academic dishonesty
Students are considered to have committed academic fraud if they use unauthorized aids, if they pass off texts written by a third party as their own in a written paper or in an exam (ghost-writing), or if they present fabricated or falsified data or findings (cf. § 51  item 32 of the Universities Act 2002).
Good academic practice
Good academic practice means complying with the legal regulations, ethical standards and the current state of knowledge of the respective subject within the framework of the tasks and objectives of the respective institution (§ 51 (2) item 33 of the Universitites Act 2002 (Universitätsgesetz 2002)).
Plagiarism in academic theses
Adherence to the standards of good academic practice is very important to WU. For this reason, we have developed a uniform procedure for dealing with detected cases of plagiarism, with precisely defined consequences that apply in the case of misconduct. These procedures are based on WU’s Directive on Plagiarism (version dated February 2019).
In a first step, the examiner responsible for grading the thesis determines the severity of the instance of plagiarism, based on the following aspects:
The quantity of the plagiarized material in absolute terms and in relation to the volume of the whole thesis
Plagiarism of entire arguments and ideas or only individual formulations
Planned and systematic plagiarism (premeditation) or just careless citation practices
Repeated instances of academic misconduct in the same thesis
In a second step, the misconduct is classified as an instance of minor plagiarism or an instance of major plagiarism. Minor and major plagiarism entail different consequences for the author:
Fig. 1: Consequences if minor plagiarism is detected, WU Directive on Plagiarism (version dated February 2019), p. 4
Fig. 2: Consequences if major plagiarism is detected, WU Plagiarism Directive (version dated February 2019), p. 5
Plagiarism detection checks for academic theses
All academic theses completed at WU are routinely subjected to mandatory plagiarism detection using Ithenticate, WU’s plagiarism detection software. The use of plagiarism detection software is intended as a complementary measure to support the supervisor in evaluating student work. The decision of whether a text is considered to be plagiarized is not made based on the software-generated report alone. Other aspects are also taken into account, e.g. the expertise of the supervisor. The plagiarism checks are performed via LEARN. Detailed information is available in the MyLEARN Guide (section currently available in German only).
Please note: The plagiarism detection check is final. It is not possible to perform any preliminary checks. If you have any questions on plagiarism and good academic practice, please ask your supervisor.
Plagiarism detection checks for seminar papers
At WU, seminar papers can be subjected to a plagiarism check using the detection software Ithenticate, but this is not mandatory. The supervisor of the paper can activate the plagiarism detection in the assignment module on LEARN. This way, it’s possible to activate all the features available for theses also for seminar papers.
Please note that any instances of academic fraud in courses are dealt with according to WU’s Directive on the Conduct of Examinations and Dealing with Cheating and Fraud. This also applies to seminar papers.
For example, the following types of misconduct are banned:
- Copying from other students (e.g. in written homework)
- Failure to use correct citations in written performance components
- Handing in the same written work in different courses without including a note in
the paper indicating that it has been submitted more than once (self-plagiarism)
All the work done as part of the course in question is declared null and void. In addition to the invalidation of the entire course, all students involved are banned from registering for or taking exams in the course in question or in parallel courses for a period of four months.
If a paper was written for another person, a fine of up to 25,000 euros may be imposed.
Support for students
We also provide specific support, for example in the form of a large variety of books on the subject available in the WU University Library and information in the Student Support Area on LEARN. There, you can find comprehensive information about plagiarism, e.g. the different types of plagiarism, how to avoid plagiarism, and further reading. Your thesis supervisor is also available to answer any specific questions you may have with regard to these topics.