Paralegal College UK
Academic Integrity Policy
Work submitted by the student must be that student’s own work.
Work must be properly referenced and supported as to:
(i) Case citations
(ii) Statute, treaty and other legislative citations
(iii) Academic citations, and
(iv) In-text referencing for all types of citation and references.
We use the Harvard referencing system (variously known as ‘Harvard’, ‘Harvard Referencing’, the ‘Harvard system’, etc)
A leading authority on the Harvard system in the UK is Angela Ruskin University and they have kindly made their document publicly available for use by other institutions. Links to the document are included in the tutor’s package, and the student’s package.
Plagiarism and any lack of academic integrity is not acceptable in student work. However, for young students in particular, it is important to be flexible and to give them time to master the system. Even graduates get it wrong, and so our policy is to guide and assist, rather than discipline and dismiss. Dismissal from a course is a, thankfully, rare step and there is a rigorous procedure to be followed before that would be allowed to happen. It is our policy to attempt to remedy matters relating to academic integrity wherever possible.
There is a learning curve that all students need to go through:
1. Students must learn why sourcing their work is important: we say this is important because every known contributor to the student’s knowledge needs to be acknowledged, firstly out of simple courtesy and respect to that person; secondly, as a question of honesty, an admission that the idea or content did not originate with the student him/herself; thirdly, as evidence that the student has taken recognisable, measurable steps to acquiring their knowledge; fourthly, as an indication that the student is aware, or is gaining awareness, of the protocols of academic procedure, and an appreciation that it is necessary to be able to compare the respective contributions of several authorities to a topic, and, fifthly, as a result of the above, to nurture in the student an evaluative, critical and analytical approach to information.
2. Personal development: in addition to the above, proper academic referencing procedures demonstrate the student’s respect for learning, which includes their respect for the fact that it is a process of personal development and growth. As the student learns to reference properly, they will grow in confidence and skill.
3. Referencing in the legal context: It goes almost without saying that citing and referencing is absolutely indispensable to a lawyer, whether working as a litigator, an advocate or a paralegal, and, therefore, a paralegal who knows how to cite and reference, will automatically gain the respect of his or her colleagues, other lawyers, and even judges, as well as improve their career prospects. Sadly, the converse for each of those points is also true.
4. Students need to learn the techniques of sourcing their information: this includes techniques relating to intext referencing and citation, footnoting, citing statutes, secondary legislation and international treaties, citing cases, including referencing judicial quotations within case citations, and understanding when and how to recognise and use neutral citations, as well as citations of reports.
5. Using sources of information as part of the skeleton of an essay, assignment, project or even academic paper: the student, through the above process, will learn the need to flesh out ideas ‘in the rough’, build them into a skeleton, and use that as the basis of their initial draft of an essay (or other academic writing). The references and citations they use are building blocks towards making the skeleton. The student will appreciate that they are not an afterthought to be tacked on at the end of writing the essay.
Tutor approach to academic integrity
1. Even university graduates are sometimes poor at referencing. Some paralegal students will not have an academic background, so it is unfair to expect perfect referencing and citing from the beginning.
2. The tutor will need to bear in mind that students on the introductory course are likely to struggle with referencing more than those who are further along in their studies. Therefore, in evaluating the student’s work, a margin of appreciation needs to be built in with regard to the individual student’s level.
3. Rather, look for progression: an initial awareness, followed by learning the techniques, followed by using referencing as part of the skeleton building process.
4. With each assignment the tutor marks, if the tutor observes problems, s/he should teach the student one referencing technique at a time. Let the student master that technique before teaching the next technique. In this way, you will help the student to grow in confidence, and it will motivate them to learn the other techniques.
5. We should recognise the difference, when marking assignments, between a student who simply needs a bit of help in order to reference better, and a student who is clearly flouting the basic decencies of academic honour. In the early stages of a student’s progress it may not be easy to tell the difference.
Procedure in the event of continued violation
1. If the tutor has made several, recorded, attempts to assist the student and the student continues to fail to reference his or her work, the tutor should consider whether a line has been crossed, or is near to being crossed, and the student is now engaged, or virtually engaged, in plagiarism and/or conduct lacking academic integrity.
2. The tutor should in the first instance send an email to the student suggesting contact by telephone. This is because, in some countries, the student may face civil or criminal penalties for perceived misconduct. It is therefore preferable for what may appear to be criticism or censure not to be recorded in writing at the student’s end, as – in some countries – governments and other authorities will, quite literally, be spying on their citizens, and might exploit even the smallest opportunity to oppress the student. However, before telephoning, please observe College policy in the ‘Contact with students’ policy document.
3. A phone call will enable you to explain to the student any necessary points under the previous two headings. Use the opportunity to tell the student what is expected of them. Get them to re-submit the previous assignment, referring them to the relevant section in the Foundations of Law course which deals with citing and referencing.
4. Please remember throughout the call that the purpose of your intervention is to guide the student to a successful outcome. It is necessary, given the above remarks, for tutors to be diplomatic and discreet in their use of language and their methods of explanation.
5. The phone call may be recorded in the ‘Events’ section of the Student Course Progress Book under the sub-heading of ‘Advice’. Advice does not appear on the student’s permanent record, and therefore the student will not risk facing domestic censure. This approach is especially valuable if, in reality, the student has simply been under too much pressure in their daily life, or because perhaps the student is struggling with the rigours of legal language, or some other reason of which we are not aware.
6. Most academic integrity issues will be solved using the above approach. Continued, knowing, failure, however, is not acceptable, and if the problem continues, send a report, as shown in the Page 13 in the Student Course Progress Book. Please follow the instructions there. Remember that an ‘Advice’ should not be reported to the College. However, if several Advices are noted by the tutor, collectively this could warrant a report.
7. Once you send a report, the College will take control of the problem. It is our policy to investigate the matter, then – if necessary – approach the student, attempt to resolve the problem, and, after contacting the student for an explanation, issue a first warning if that is appropriate. You will appreciate that the matter would have to be very serious for this step to be reached. Normally, it would not be necessary if the steps under the previous headings have been conscientiously followed.
8. When issuing warnings to students we will use their secure email address.
9. Following the first warning, the matter will again be investigated and, if appropriate, the student will again be asked for their explanation, and may receive a second warning. If there are further violations after a second warning, we will have no choice but to investigate the matter, and we may terminate the student’s course. This is in any case set out in the document, Paralegal College Terms and Conditions.