Taught Student Policy Guidance Note for Proofreading Written Work
Guidance for undergraduate and postgraduate taught students about the proofreading of work submitted for assessment.
- Proofreading is a standard practice designed to improve the presentation of a piece of written work. This can occur during the drafting of the work in a developmental manner, or during the final stages of producing that work. It is the systematic checking for and identification of errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar and sentence construction, formatting and layout.
- Students are encouraged to proofread their own work as the primary means of identifying and addressing the aforementioned errors. The University also acknowledges that students may wish to engage in proofreading of their work by third parties. “Third parties” may be fellow-students, friends and family, professional proofreading services or digital proofreading tools. This applies equally to proofreading as a commercial service for which a fee is charged, and to proofreading on an informal basis by fellow-students, friends and family without payment.
- The University expects students to take full responsibility for the originality and ownership of their work. It is therefore the sole responsibility of students to ensure that any proofreading done by third parties does not compromise the intellectual contribution of the student’s work. The integrity of the awards made by the University rests upon the principle that work submitted for assessment represents the student’s own effort and understanding, with the intellectual contributions not attributable to the student(s) submitting the work, clearly identified, as appropriate to the academic discipline.
- Students should be aware of the potential consequences of submitting work which they cannot claim solely as their own, due to proofreading by third parties or any other contribution. This includes the risk of being charged with academic misconduct. In such cases, students who find themselves subject to investigation for academic misconduct are not able to claim in defence that their work has been subject to third party proofreading. Such assistance from a third party proofreader may be considered to constitute the offence of contract cheating, as defined in Regulation XVIII as:
- 2(iii) Contract cheating – engaging a third party to complete assessed work for a student who then submits it as their own. This can be where a student uses an online “essay mill” or writing service to purchase work, but it is not necessary for money to be exchanged for contract cheating to occur – e.g. it may involve a student swapping papers with another student, or a student asking a friend, colleague, or family member to write an assignment for them as a favour. Contract cheating may also occur where a student arranges to have their work copy-edited or proof-read, either commercially or by a friend, colleague, or family member, and the amendments made are so substantial that the work can no longer be considered to be the student’s own.
- Where it is suspected that a student is not the sole author of the work, the University will expect a student to demonstrate authorship through the presentation of earlier drafts of the work or similar.
Learning and Teaching Committee, June 2022