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Surviving dental school: avoiding plagiarism

18 June 2021
The Dental Council expects dental students to be honest, trustworthy and to act with integrity. This equally applies to academic work.

What is plagiarism? 

Plagiarism is the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement. All published and unpublished material, whether in manuscript, printed or electronic form, is covered under this definition.

Tips for avoiding plagiarism

You will already be aware of the things you can do to prevent plagiarism while you’re at dental school, including making sure you cite references for any information from other publications or authors. Many people make this mistake by lack of referencing, especially when it comes to online material.

Here are some tips:
1. Cite your source – Identify the full name of the source and the date it was published, using any other academic referencing style or citation element that is required.

2. Include quotations – use quotation marks around the words which are not your own.

3. Paraphrase – rewrite the information in your own words.

4. Present your own idea – add your own thoughts and perspective. 

5. Use a plagiarism checker – an online tool can help you catch any issues.

Most colleges and universities use anti-plagiarism software to identify  anyone who might be trying to pass off someone else’s work as their own. We’ve seen many people who have been caught out in this way.

The consequences of plagiarising 

Many students have been tempted to take shortcuts when under the pressure of large workloads, high competition and tight deadlines. Even a single incident – for example in your assessments, CV or applications – could lead to disciplinary action, damage to your career, and harm your chances of registering with the Dental Council.

What may seem like a minor transgression could have serious consequences for a dentist’s career. Practice owners and hospital employers will view dishonesty on an application form in poor light, affecting the outcome of your job application. Your fitness to practise as a qualified dentist may also be questioned.

We can help you  

If you do find yourself being accused of plagiarism or dishonesty it is important that you contact us to receive expert advice at an early stage. The earlier we are involved, the better the chances of limiting any damage to your career.

Case study

Alex was in his final year at dental school. He had always been a hard worker and excelled in his studies, holding down a part-time job alongside his university degree to support himself financially.

At the end of the first term Alex began to struggle. His mum had been in and out of hospital, so he needed to travel home often. He had also taken on more shifts at work to help pay for an upcoming holiday. Before he knew it, Alex was facing multiple deadlines for assessments to be submitted.

Unable to see any other option, Alexi decided to go online and copy large chunks of wording from documents that had been uploaded to forums and databases to help him complete an assessment. He made slight changes to the wording and submitted the work on time.

Shortly afterwards, Alex was called in to visit his tutor. His work had been flagged by the school’s anti-plagiarism software, with the copied text in Alex’s assessment clearly identified. The school initiated an investigation and Alex was accused of plagiarism.

Learning points

  • By copying and pasting information from the internet and failing to properly reference the text, Alex had committed serious plagiarism and risked disciplinary action, expulsion and potential difficulties in any future registration with the Dental Council.
  • Alex immediately contacted Dental Protection for advice. After speaking to a dentolegal consultant he disclosed what had happened and we were able to provide advice and support in how to present the circumstances that led to the plagiarism.
  • Although Alex failed his assessment and was required to repeat part of his course,, most importantly he was permitted to continue his studies and complete his qualification the following year.
Remember – if you need advice on issues similar to those raised in this post, call our Dental Protection for further assistance.