Ethical Conduct Guidelines

The National University of Singapore (NUS) strongly believes that all staff and students must conduct themselves in a professional and ethical manner. In particular, as law graduates and future lawyers, you must adhere to high standards of ethical conduct and avoid plagiarism. This is particularly important in academia, where the assumption is that the assignments you turn in are your own work.

Read this document carefully. Once you have understood it, you will be required to submit your declaration online. Upon submission of the online declaration, you will receive an email notification. A copy of this notification will also be kept in your student file. You will be informed of further instructions on the online declaration by Week 2 of your first semester at NUS.

Note that the online declaration is mandatory.

The plagiarism policy applies to all your classes, modules, continuous assessments and examinations taken at the National University of Singapore.


  1. Plagiarism in General

    The Oxford English Dictionary (1987) defines plagiarism as "to take and use as one's own the thoughts, writings, or inventions of another." In an academic environment, plagiarism occurs when a student or an academic uses an idea, or words, or the results of research, of another person as though they were his or her own work. This is a form of academic dishonesty.

    NUS has created an excellent e-module on Fundamentals of Academic Life. This teaches you what plagiarism is, and can be found on LumiNUS (Navigation: > SE1000 Student Essentials > Fundamentals of Academic Life).  Please take a minute to go through this website.

    For law students, in particular, the following webpage provides a warning on plagiarism: You must read the webpage carefully and go through the e-module. It is important that you understand what plagiarism is.

    The following are key points to note from the general NUS anti-plagiarism policy:

    Plagiarism Warning

    You have the obligation to make clear to the assessor which is your own work, and which is the work of others. Otherwise, your assessor will assume that everything being presented for assessment is being presented as entirely your own work.

    This is a minimum standard. In addition, we hope that the following guidelines will provide you with some assistance.
    1. When using the ideas, phrases, paragraphs and data of others in work presented for assessment, such materials should be appropriately credited and acknowledged, so that it is clear that the materials being presented is that of another person and not the candidate's own.
    2. The amount of detail required when referencing and acknowledging a source will vary according to the type of work and norms of the discipline.
      • Supervised exams will require less detail in referencing and acknowledgement.
      • Papers written under non-supervised conditions (i.e. research papers, take-home assignments/examinations) will require a full citation of the source. While a particular style of citation is not prescribed, the citation should provide enough information for the reader to locate the source.
    3. Research materials (including texts, graphics and data) obtained from the internet or other electronic resources should be treated in the same way as research materials obtained from traditional sources. When in doubt, always cite the source.


  2. Plagiarism at the Faculty of Law

    At the Faculty of Law, the nature of assignments and examinations require the student to refer to many sources in order to answer the questions. Plagiarism can occur intentionally and unintentionally: (i) you might have intentionally copied a phrase or sections from somewhere else without citation (e.g. cases, articles, Wikipedia, group study notes, senior's notes); (ii) you might have forgotten to cite a source under time pressure. In both scenarios, this would be plagiarism, even though the penalties may differ. You must therefore take steps to ensure that you know what constitutes plagiarism and avoid plagiarising.

    These are additional guidelines relevant to the Faculty of Law:
    Plagiarism – Additional Guidelines for Law Students
    Law students should observe the following guidelines specific to the norms of our discipline:
    1. The common law legal method requires the lawyer to reason and/or argue from authority. Therefore, in many assignments, law students are encouraged to quote or paraphrase the opinions of judges, leading textbook writers, academics and other sources to support their reasoning. The general principle in legal writing is that when using others' ideas, the writer must use the proper quotation and citation format to give credit to the source of the quote, idea or argument.
    2. When drafting legal documents such as contracts, one important objective may be the desire to achieve stability and predictable outcomes. Therefore, in some assignments, law students may be instructed to base their draft documents on precedents and samples provided or suggested by the teacher. For these kinds of assignments, students need not acknowledge the precedents.
    3. If students have written a paper for one module, they cannot submit any part of that paper as original work for another module. If students wish to use their own previous work, they must use the proper quotation and citation format to identify that previous source.

    Further guidelines can be found in "Law School Plagiarism v. Proper Attribution", a paper by the Legal Writing Institute which can be located online at the following web address:

    So How Do I Cite Sources Properly?
    Avoiding allegations of plagiarism requires knowing when and how to cite. Here are important rules and suggestions to follow when working with sources:
    1. When making direct use of someone else's words, use BOTH quotation marks
      ("….") AND a footnote citing the source. When words are quoted verbatim, a footnote alone is insufficient. Quotation marks MUST be provided.

    2. When paraphrasing/re-structuring someone else's words, always insert a footnote providing the source.
    3. When making direct use of someone else's idea, always insert a footnote providing the source.
    4. Acknowledge a source when your own analysis or conclusion builds on that source.
    5. Acknowledge a source when your idea about a legal opinion came from a source other than the opinion itself.


  3. Penalties for Plagiarism

    The penalties for plagiarism are severe. Be familiar with them. The NUS Plagiarism Warning states that:
    Any student found to have committed or aided and abetted the offence of plagiarism may be subject to disciplinary actions in accordance with Statute 6 (Discipline) and Regulation 10 of the National University of Singapore. In addition, the student may receive no mark/grade for the relevant academic assignment, project, or thesis; and he/she may fail or be denied a grade for the relevant module.

    Statute 6 deals with discipline. See The penalties include disciplinary proceedings.


  4. Collaboration

    In some classes, collaboration is permitted (and even encouraged) at the early stages of preparation for a written assignment. This allows you to learn from each other.

    While you may collaborate on the ideas and arguments that you can make for the written assignments, the actual written work that you submit must be your own. You should not copy someone else's written work. If Student A lets Student B copy parts of his/her essay or study notes, and the work submitted for grading by the two students show significant similarity, then both students may be disciplined for plagiarism.

  5. Use of the Library

    Use the Law Library in an ethical manner. It is unethical to intentionally hide or steal library material. It is unethical to withdraw library material from the shelves to reshelve them elsewhere. It is unethical to deface library books with pencil or pen markings or highlighters or any other form of marking.

    The library resources that will be extended to you include online library resources. The Faculty of Law has licences from vendors of on-line databases such as LexisNexis and Westlaw which give students access to their databases. These databases must be used ONLY for educational purposes and for the purposes of study. You are NOT permitted to use these databases for any other use, including legal research for law firms or other organizations. You are NOT to share your password with any other person (whether NUS students or not).

    Students who do attachments or internships or volunteer outside of law school MAY NOT use their student passwords to access the online databases during the course of their activities outside law school.

  6. Other guidelines

    Ethical conduct guidelines are difficult to draw up and this document cannot be an exhaustive definition of ethical conduct. Be aware that you must always uphold high ethical standards. These are demanded of you whether you are in class, or dealing with other students, or even when you are doing your internships. When in doubt, ask your instructors or the Office of Academic Affairs.