School of Computer Science

Research Conduct

The main University reference point for good conduct in research is the Code of Practice for Research.


It also mentions some aspects of bad conduct, and one of the most important is plagiarism -- passing off other people's work as your own. There is an important lecture in the Research Skills module on this topic. You should also be sure to read the University's Guidance for Students on Plagiarism, with reference to the Code of Practice on Plagiarism.

Remember that at the research level, plagiarism goes far beyond simply copying. If you write about some ideas, and someone else has already published those ideas, and you don't reference them, then even if you don't know about the other work that is already bad - you should have searched the literature more thoroughly. But if you do know about the other work then that is plagiarism and very bad.

Reporting other people's work: You must always be very careful how you do this. Even if you are not deliberately passing off their work as your own, it is all too easy to report their work in an ambiguous way that leaves the reader thinking the work is your work, and that is still wrong and counts technically as plagiarism. It is not enough, for instance, just to list their publications in your list of references. In your own text it must be completely clear whose work you are reporting, which parts are their work, which parts are your comments on their work, and which are your own work. Examples of good and bad styles can be found in Peter Hancox's Research Skills slides.

Plagiarism detection (Turnitin)

The work you submit as part of your studies, including your progress reports and thesis, may be submitted to the Turnitin web-search plagiarism detection system. In particular, one or two theses will be randomly chosen each year to be sent to Turnitin, and you should also expect one of your progress reports to be sent. This is University policy in line with the Code of Practice on Supervision and Monitoring.

Turnitin automatically checks submissions against all visible internet pages, journals, periodicals etc. as well as Turnitin's own archive of student essays, which it builds up from the submissions. A detailed report is generated for each submission, showing the percentage that is thought to have been copied and the suspected sources.

If Turnitin ever detects any potential plagiarism issues, the School will discuss these fully with you prior to deciding what action, if any, to take.

You may, if you wish, register an objection to the use of Turnitin with the research students tutor. You will be expected to put forward a principled objection to its use if you do this. You may not simply withhold consent for no reason.

Intellectual Property (IP)

Some research will lead to ideas that can be exploited commercially, and then Intellectual Property Rights can become an issue. If you have industrial sponsorship, then there should already be an agreement between your sponsors and the University to determine how those rights will be determined.

In other cases, with no industrial sponsorship, the general presumption is that set out as - for example - by the EPSRC: "We expect universities to manage their IP and to make sure that those generating the IP [i.e. the researchers!] get appropriate benefit from its exploitation." Different universities handle this in different ways. At Birmingham the regulations require both staff and students to assign their rights to the University - see Regulation 3.16 Patents and the Exploitation of Inventions and Regulation 5.4 Intellectual Property.