- How do I avoid plagiarism?
- How do I include work I have undertaken in collaboration with others?
- How can I include work already submitted for another qualification?
- Who owns the Intellectual Property (IP) of my research?
- Who needs to see my thesis before I submit?
- How can I ensure the confidentiality of the dissertation while under examination?
- Who owns the Copyright of my dissertation?
- Who has access to my dissertation?
Best practice in research requires both high quality research and academic integrity. The University supports this with clear policy, guidance and support.
Guidance on research integrity is available on the University’s Research Integrity Website: http://www.research-integrity.admin.cam.ac.uk/.
Research Students should be particularly aware of the University’s Research Integrity Statement and Guidelines on Good Research Practice. A Research Integrity checklist has been provided to assist students and supervisors in addressing these issues.
Information on what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it, together with guidance for examiners on how to deal with cases of suspected plagiarism can be found on the University's plagiarism website. It is the responsibility of all students to read, understand and comply with the University-wide Statement on Plagiarism and guidance issued by their Faculty or Department.
Plagiarism (the passing off of the work of others as your own) can arise from poor acknowledgement and referencing of the work of others. It is your responsibility to find out and use the referencing conventions in your discipline. Cheating by deliberately plagiarising or by falsifying data is an offence against University discipline and will be treated very seriously, and can result in failure of the degree.
Your Supervisors will ensure you are aware of both the requirement for scrupulous honesty in presenting your research and the conventions required for acknowledging the work of others in your particular subject. These requirements are made clear in the Course Handbook and during your induction.
You are required to comply with these conventions. Ignorance of the rules will not be accepted as a defence, unless it is demonstrated that the relevant information has not been made available to you. The University reserves the right to require the submission of work in both electronic and paper format. Your Faculty or Department may also scrutinise work with plagiarism detection software.
Students are not to make use of commercial 'ghost-writing' services and 'essay banks'. The submission of material purchased from these sources for examination will be regarded as collusion in potential plagiarism.
The appropriate acknowledgement of the contribution of co-workers and others is an essential part of your research training; your supervisor should make your responsibilities in acknowledgement clear to you and assist you in accessing training as necessary. Examiners will expect the original contribution of the candidate to be made plain in the dissertation and may explore any areas of doubt in the oral examination.
You will be required to state in your dissertation:
- the sources from which information is derived
- the extent to which you have availed yourself of the work of others; and
- the portions of the dissertation which you claim are original work.
The following statement should be included in the preface:
'This dissertation is my own work and contains nothing which is the outcome of work done in collaboration with others, except as specified in the text and Acknowledgements'.
The Student Registry recognises that research degrees are frequently now carried out in groups and, in almost all subjects, you are likely to have made use of the help of others to some extent. If you have undertaken collaborative work during the course of your research, you must ensure this is declared in the Preface and specified in the text. The Declaration Form and Deposit and Copying of Dissertation Declaration submitted with the soft bound copy of the thesis both require a signature to confirm this.
You must indicate clearly which portions of the dissertation describe work undertaken by others or in collaboration with others, and give the names of those persons with whom you have collaborated along with an indication of the extent to which you have availed yourself of their assistance.
Students working with others should also refer to the information below on Intellectual Property.
You are required to declare that the dissertation submitted is not substantially the same as any that you have submitted for a degree or diploma or other qualification at the University of Cambridge or any other university or similar institution and to identify any parts which have either been - or will be - submitted for any degree, diploma, or other qualification at the University of Cambridge.
A signed declaration in support of this must be submitted along with the soft bound dissertation and be included in the dissertation. For further details and forms for this declaration visit the Submitting the Dissertation page.
You are not permitted to include the whole or the major part of the text of a previous dissertation within the PhD, MSc or MLitt degree dissertation. However, you may include some parts - including tables, diagrams etc. - from your previous work.
If you have previously been approved for the MPhil/MRes/MSt degrees, a Diploma, or Certificate of Postgraduate Study, and have been allowed to count up to three terms towards the requirements for the PhD, MSc or MLitt degree, you may include suitable elements of this work, as long as it is clearly identified as such and forms a connected part of the argument within the new dissertation.
The University's policy concerning Intellectual Property Rights can be found on the Research Office website:
The University of Cambridge recognises the right of graduate students to own Intellectual Property (IP) that they have generated during the course of their studies. However, there are possible exceptions to this - as listed below:
- if you are funded by a sponsor, the University may enter into a contract with the funder which governs the research. These contracts are negotiated by the Research Office of the University and may require you to assign your IP to either the University or to the sponsor
- your supervisor may have research funding from external sponsors with terms and conditions which require you to assign your IP either to the University or to the sponsor
- if you are working in collaboration with others, or if the IP generated in the course of your study involves significant University resources such as input from your supervisor or other members of staff, and shared inventions arise, the University may require you to assign your IP to the University or place the results in the public domain without restriction
- if you are based in an 'embedded' or independent laboratory, special IP conditions apply. Such institutions include the Cancer Research Institute, the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Sanger Institute and the Babraham Institute
- if you are an employee of an organisation either full or part-time, your employer may have certain rights to IP generated during the course of your studies. You should check your contract of employment to verify this. Notwithstanding the employment contract, an agreement may be made between the University and your employer which overrides the employment contract.
Where any of the above apply, you will normally be recognised and rewarded for your contribution in the development of the IP in accordance with University policy and/or your contract of employment.
New agreements may be required if the direction of your research changes and as a consequence you change to a different research group.
If you have entered into a formal agreement under any of the circumstances described above, you should check whether this commits you to any particular arrangement concerning the submission and examination of your dissertation and access to your work and results. This may involve you, your examiners or the University making certain undertakings. For example:
- you might be required to assign copyright to another party or parties
- you might be required to submit the final draft of your dissertation to your funder before submitting for examination by the University
- your examiners might have to agree to keep the work confidential during the examination process; or
- the University might agree to restrict access to the dissertation for a period of time.
You should discuss the implications of your contract with your supervisor; who may draw on the expertise of the University's Research Office.
Further information on IP and collaborative working
In the course of almost any research project, you and your supervisor will exchange ideas such that it is often very difficult in retrospect to ascertain to whom any given idea belongs. If you, your supervisor or other member of a research group feels that misunderstanding may arise in future over the ownership of an idea or piece of work, he or she should make notes (whether in a laboratory notebook or other progress log) at the time and ask the other person or persons concerned to confirm their agreement.
Particular care is needed if your funder is not the same as the group's principal sponsor: there may be conflicting claims on IP and special arrangements for confidentiality may be needed. To avoid any possible misunderstanding, students and supervisors should make themselves aware of any conditions attached to funding agreements and arrangements for participation in group research.
As noted above, appropriate acknowledgement of the contribution of co-workers and others is an essential part of your research training and must be clearly explained in the dissertation.
Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, ownership of the copyright of unpublished dissertations and theses and their summaries rests with the author for the duration of his or her lifetime and a given number of years thereafter, unless he or she specifically transfers it to another person.
When you submit your dissertation for examination, the Board will request you sign a statement acknowledging your ownership of copyright in the dissertation and asserting your right to be identified as the author of the dissertation. It is your responsibity to check whether you have entered into any agreement to reassign the copyright.
You should check what is required by any funding agreement. The dissertation may need to go to the funder before it is submitted for examination. In this case you will be expected to provide written confirmation from your funder (or industrial supervisor, as appropriate) that they have seen and approved the final version of the work.
In the normal course of study, the Board would expect your supervisor to have seen the final draft and approve the submission of the work under the terms of any IP agreement you may have with him/her or the group in which you are working.
Please note, however, that you are ultimately responsible for the work submitted and that approval under the terms of your IP agreement cannot be interpreted as a guarantee that the work is adequate for the degree sought.
Examiners can be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement if your sponsors require that the contents of the dissertation must remain confidential for the period of the examination. The Degree Committee will arrange for this to be done when they appoint the Examiners. Candidates are asked to apply for this to be arranged when they request the appointment of examiners.
For further infomation about restricting access, see the pages on Submitting the Dissertation. To apply for Restricted Access to your dissertation make an online application through your CamSIS Self Service pages
An important outcome of your examination for a research degree is that your work is made available for consultation as soon as is reasonably possible.
The University requires that each dissertation approved for the Ph.D., M.Sc., M.Litt., together with its summary, shall be available for consultation in the University Library. The abstract is photocopied for the ProQuest abstracts for Index to Theses. People wishing to consult your thesis for their own private research from elsewhere, i.e. not at the university library, have to purchase a copy - while institutions requiring a copy for their own libraries need your permission first.
Anyone seeking access to or requesting a copy of your dissertation, will sign a library declaration recognising that the copyright of the dissertation and summary belongs to the owner. The declaration states that a substantial part of the dissertation will not be copied without the copyright owner's written consent and undertakes that any copy made will be used for private study and not for the purposes of commercial exploitation. In addition, the dissertation and summary themselves, and any photocopy supplied by the library, will contain a prominent notice drawing attention to the same points.
All dissertations will be considered to be in the public domain, unless they have been granted restricted access, catalogued by the University Library. If you have deposited a copy of your dissertation to DSpace@Cambridge it can be read and downloaded from anywhere.
To apply for Restricted Access to your dissertation make an online application through your CamSIS Self Service pages