Maintaining research integrity

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Research must be ethical and have integrity

As a graduate researcher you have rights, but also responsibilities. Research integrity relates to such things as ethics, authorship, collaboration, managing data and intellectual property (IP). Research is often about innovation and creativity but it’s important to ensure that the IP of others is respected. Check out your responsibilities as a researcher to find out more. This has a link to the research integrity modules you will need to complete.

The methodology section of your research proposal should address any research integrity issues. Although you will also need to apply for ethics approval if your research involves humans, animals or gene modification, showing how you will account for ethical and integrity issues will strengthen your proposal by illustrating that you’ve thought carefully about these issues.

This may include how you will:

  • seek informed consent
  • ensure the voluntary nature of participation
  • ensure participant anonymity
  • avoid harm (including possible psychological harm)
  • show how you will avoid bias and ensure your research is impartial
  • identify how you will manage and store your data.

Research ethics also includes addressing academic integrity in your writing. This means correctly citing your sources in an appropriate referencing style and avoiding plagiarism by being honest and respecting the work of others. Remember that for every idea you write about and every table or figure you use, you need to cite the source – unless it is your own idea, table or figure or it is general knowledge in your field.

Plagiarism often occurs for these reasons:

  • Incorrect paraphrasing. Just changing the key words in a sentence is not enough; you need to change the key words (except for technical vocabulary) as well as the sentence structure. If you take a whole phrase, clause or sentence from the original source, you must put quotation marks around it.
  • Citing quotations but not paraphrases. Although you’re using your own words and sentence structure, you still need to cite the source:
    • with a quotation, you’re citing the writer’s idea as well as their own text
    • with a paraphrase, you’re citing the writer’s idea.
  • Cultural misunderstanding. Many cultures see academic integrity differently from Western universities. Some cultures believe that knowledge belongs to society as a whole, not to the individual. Often, students are encouraged to repeat the words of the masters rather than create original ideas.
  • Self-plagiarism. Using your own previously published work without citing the source is treated the same as plagiarising another writer’s work. Although you have ‘ownership’ of the work, there are ethical issues associated with presenting previously published work as new work; it could also infringe upon the original publisher’s copyright.

For more information, see RMIT’s Academic integrity and plagiarism procedure