Collusion vs. Collaboration Avoiding Plagiarism while Working Together

Collaboration at University

One of the great things about going to university is the chance to work collaboratively with your peers. There's just so much you can learn from your friends and course-mates, whether you're working together on an assessed group project or setting up a casual study session with a few friends. This guide will help you work collaboratively without committing academic misconduct.

What is Collusion?

Did you know that working together on a project that's supposed to be your own work can be considered plagiarism? Editing your friend's essay, messaging your peers during an online exam, and sharing your work with your classmates can all be examples of Academic Misconduct.

The University of Dundee's Code of Practice on Academic Misconduct by Students defines Collusion as "the representation of a piece of collaborative work as the work of a single candidate, or the representation of draft work that has been shared by another student as the candidate’s own work."

Keep scrolling to find out more about the difference between positive collaboration and unacceptable collusion.

Collaboration vs Collusion

The table below outlines which behaviours are acceptable forms of collaboration and which are collusion.

Making the Call

When you're trying to decide if something is collusion or collaboration, you should ask yourself two questions.

1) Is this assessment meant to evaluate my own individual knowledge and skills? If yes, then it must be your own work and you are not permitted to let anyone else make changes to it. At university, it's best to assume that all coursework is individual, unless it's explicitly labelled as group-work.

2) Am I working with others on general skills, or on a specific assignment? Working together to solve practice problems, explore challenging ideas, or learn new skills are all excellent examples of collaboration. Pooling effort on a piece of coursework or an exam is collusion.

Case Studies

Click on the tiles below for a series of situations. Imagine yourself in each situation- what would you do? Try to think of ways that you can take advantage of positive collaborations, without falling into the trap of collusion.

What's Next?

If you're not sure if the way you've been working with others counts as collusion or collaboration, the best thing is to check with your tutor. They can clarify what is acceptable (or not) in any specific situation. Your Adviser of Studies can also discuss your situation with you.

Outside your School, you can contact the Enquiry Centre (enquiry@dundee.ac.uk) for general advice on collusion and academic misconduct. You can also make an appointment with an Academic Skills Tutor (writing@dundee.ac.uk) or speak to an independent DUSA representative (advice@dusa.co.uk).

This guide was created by Dr. Rachel Horrocks-Birss from the Academic Skills Centre at the University of Dundee (Scotland, UK). Please contact us at asc@dundee.ac.uk.

Created By
Rachel Horrocks Birss


Created with images by Brooke Cagle - "Sponsored by Google Chromebooks" • John Schnobrich - "together now" • Siora Photography - "untitled image" • Hannah Olinger - "Journaling" • Ümit Bulut - "untitled image"