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Avoiding plagiarism and falsification

Scientific fraud and plagiarism are both unacceptable in academia and can results in you:

  • Losing your degree
  • Facing disciplinary action
  • Ruining your credibility as a researcher


However, they are not always committed maliciously, they can sometimes be the result of academic carelessness or ignorance. It is your responsibility to

  • Understand what plagiarism and falsification are
  • Ensure that you avoid them
  • Understand the consequences
  • Face the consequences if you commit them   




As well as the consequences above, scientific fraud can be a criminal offense. Fraud can be in the forms of:

A. Fabrication

  • Making up data
  • Claiming photographs are of things they are not
  • Substituting samples you know will work for test samples.


B. Falsification

  • Of data, e.g. adjusting, selecting
  • Of images, e.g. 'Photoshop', 'airbrush', 'improving'.


C. Selecting Data

You may not always include all your observations or all your raw data; you have to decide what to include and what to leave out/clean up. But beware of selectivity bias and data distortion.


D. Plagiarising Data

Reproducing someone else’s results (or even your own). For example, changing a few data points, or reversing or 'Photoshopping' a photograph (plagiarism with falsification!)


Once you start it is hard to stop, and you have to keep up the pretense.

Don't do it!



It is essential that you understand what plagiarism is, and how to avoid it. It could mean the difference between you passing and failing in your PhD viva, or your work being discredited in the future like Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg.

Lots of useful information can be found at the University's pages on plagiarism.

Welcome to the Graduate School of Life Sciences


We are the largest centre for research and professionial training in the Life Sciences in the UK, offering a unique experience to a community of around 2000 postgraduate students spread across departments within the School of the Biological Sciences, School of Clinical Medicine and eleven University Partner Institutes in the Cambridge area.

Every year some of the world's brightest and most determined students are attracted by the opportunity to carry out research projects with renowned scientists in a vibrant, multidisciplinary environment at one of the world's most respected research-led universities.

The School co-ordinates funding opportunities within the Life Sciences for their postgraduate education, as well as ensuring students receive the highest quality supervision and training.