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Surviving dental school: avoiding plagiarism

Post date: 29/01/2020 | Time to read article: 3 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 03/07/2020

The GDC expects dental students to be honest and trustworthy, and to act with integrity, and 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 All published and unpublished material, whether in manuscript, printed or electronic form, is covered under this definition.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’ll be aware of the things you can do to prevent plagiarism while you’re at dental school, including making sure you include references for any information from other publications or authors. Many people make this mistake, especially when it comes to online material.

Here are some tips:

  1. Cite your source – identify the full name of the source, the date it was published, and any other citation element that’s required.
  2. Include quotations – use quotation marks around the words that aren’t 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 deaneries use anti-plagiarism software to spot 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 GDC.

What may seem like a minor transgression could have serious consequences for a dentist’s career. Practice principals and hospital trusts 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

While it is clearly best to avoid any suspicion altogether, if you do find yourself being accused of plagiarism or dishonesty by the GDC, it is important that you contact us to get expert advice at an early stage. The earlier we are involved, the better the chances of limiting any damage to your career.

Case study

Adi was in his final year at dental school. He’d always been a hard worker and done well in his studies, holding down a part-time job alongside his studies to support himself financially.

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

Unable to see any other option, Adi 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 on time.

Shortly afterwards, Adi was called in to visit his supervisor. His work had been flagged by the school’s anti-plagiarism software, with the copied text in Adi’s assessment clearly identified. The school initiated a fitness to practise hearing and Adi was accused of plagiarism.

Learning points

  • By copy and pasting information from the internet, and failing to properly reference the text, Adi had committed serious plagiarism and risked disciplinary action, expulsion and involvement from the GDC.
  • Luckily Adi immediately contacted us for advice. After speaking to a dentolegal consultant he admitted what he had done, and we were able to give advice on how to present the circumstances that led to the plagiarism.
  • Adi failed his assessment and was made to repeat part of his course. Nevertheless he was still able 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, our dedicated student support and advice line is here for you on 0800 952 0442.

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