Page:Use of unfair means in assessments

Use of unfair means in assessments

What constitutes the use of unfair means in an assessment?

The university's definition of unfair means can be found here. Using unfair means can be split into these sub-categories; plagarism, buying work, collusion, self plagiarism, fabrication, assisting and exams.


Plagiarism is considered by the University to be the main use of unfair means. This means that the work you have submitted is not your own but someone else’s. It is classed as a form of cheating and means the University cannot assess your abilities properly. Plagiarism can be unintentional and occur without you realising, therefore it is very important that you are up to speed on referencing and understand the correct way of presenting arguments whilst correctly attributing to its correct source. All departments have been asked by the University to provide compulsory classes on plagiarism in the first year of all undergraduate and taught postgraduate courses. As part of these, you will be shown how to reference properly and you should attend. You can also get further help from the Library, 301 and the Writing Advisory Service.

Departments use specialist software such as Turnitin, to help detect plagiarism, so you will be taking a big risk if you plagiarise. The University takes plagiarism extremely seriously and students can be expelled if they are found to have plagiarised.

Buying or commissioning work from others

The university views this as a very serious form of plagarism, and if you are found to have used unfair means in this way, it may result in exclusion from the university. 

Examples of this include:

  • Asking other students to write an assignment for you
  • Responding to an advertisement on the internet offering to write an assignment for you, with or without payment
  • Placing an advertisement yourself
  • Asking others, such as members of your family or friends, to write or improve assignments for you.


This is where you work together with one or more students to produce work which you submit, or each of you submits, as your own work. This does not apply to a group assignment where you have been asked to work together. Collusion can occur with or without your knowledge. You may offer your assignment to a friend in difficulty to have a look at to give them ideas, but if they then use your work, you will also be guilty of collusion. Similarly if you use someone else's work, this is also collusion.


This is when you re-submit work for an assignment which has already been assessed for a previous assignment, this could include just small paragraphs from the earlier assignment and even though it is your own work, because it has been used earlier, without appropriate referencing it counts as plagiarism. It also applies if you submitted the work for assessment at another university or college before coming to the University of Sheffield.


This is submitting work which you have made up or is untrue, e.g. experimental results in laboratory work or survey results.


If you assist a fellow student in carrying out any form of unfair means you will also be disciplined under same process of unfair means.

Unfair Means in Exams

Taking the incorrect dictionary, calculator, or reference book (or those with notes in), or a mobile phone (unless you put it in the envelope provided)  into the exam will result in you being accused of using unfair means in an exam, and will usually result in you getting 0 for the paper, even if it was by mistake or accidental. However if it is discovered to be intentional, harsher punishments can be applied.

Please ensure you are familiar with exam rules and conduct before going into your exam. Further details can be found here.

Other examples of unfair means in exams include; copying from other students, writing notes in reference books, leaving notes in toilets  writing notes on your hand, or other ways of trying to take notes into the exam. The University Exam Do's and Don't guide explains how to ensure you don't accidentally breach the rules during your exams. 

If you are accused of using unfair means in an assessment, you may also wish to look at the University Discipline Regulations and our self-help pages in the discipline section, on what to do and expect if you have been accused of using unfair means.  Alternatively, you can make an appointment to see an academic adviser at the Student Advice Centre for further advice.

Last updated January 2018