Ethical Conduct and Plagiarism Policy

The National University of Singapore (NUS) strongly believes that all staff and students must conduct themselves in a professional and ethical manner. As law students and future lawyers, in particular, you must maintain high standards of academic integrity and ethical conduct. Academic misconduct bears upon whether a law graduate is a fit and proper person to be admitted to practice law in Singapore, and applicants are required to disclose prior misconduct as part of the bar admissions process.

  1.  Application of Policy

    This Policy applies to all students undertaking study in the Faculty of Law, whether enrolled in a programme offered by the Faculty of Law, or by another NUS Faculty, or by another institution. Incoming students must also submit an online declaration attesting that they have read this Policy and have completed an online course on Student Essentials. (That course can be found at A copy of the declaration will be kept in each student’s academic record. Students can expect further instructions about the online declaration by Week 2 of their first semester at NUS. The declaration is mandatory.

    This Policy applies to all courses offered by NUS Law and to all forms of assessment in those courses, whether continuous assessments or examinations.

  2.  What is academic misconduct or unethical conduct?
    All students share responsibility for upholding the academic standards and reputation of the University. It is difficult to provide an exhaustive definition of what constitutes unethical behaviour or academic misconduct. Some of the more obvious forms include: false statements intentionally made in connection with assessments or academic processes (e.g., special consideration); breaches of the rules regulating the conduct of examinations; falsification of data or sources; cheating; attempts to impair the integrity of assessments or hinder the performance of other students in a course; and inappropriate or bad faith use of academic resources.  Plagiarism is another important kind of academic misconduct and is described further in sections 3 to 6.

  3. 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.

    Plagiarism can occur intentionally – for example, where a student cut-and-pastes another’s material into an assignment and deliberately omits to attribute the source – and also unintentionally – for example, where a student includes material in an assignment but then, rushing for a deadline, forgets to include a citation for it. Both of these situations will be treated by NUS as academic misconduct, though the severity of the penalty may differ.

    An assessor is entitled to assume that the material you submit for assessment is entirely your own work unless indicated otherwise. Thus, the onus is upon you to indicate when you have used the ideas or materials of others.

    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. In particular, where someone else’s exact words are used these should be clearly and explicitly quoted (see 5(a) below).
    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.
      1. Supervised exams will require less detail in referencing and acknowledgement.
      2. 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.  This Policy applies to materials (including texts, graphics and data) from any source. So, materials obtained from the internet, from other electronic sources or from other students (including “seniors’ notes”, “muggers’ notes” or group study notes) should be treated in the same way as research materials obtained from traditional sources. When in doubt, always cite the source.

    4. Where the instructor permits the use of AI tools (like ChatGPT) in connection with an assessment task, the output generated by such tools is to be regarded as the work of others and should be acknowledged in a manner equivalent to human-created materials. (For further information, see the tab for “AI Tools” at  If in doubt about the use of AI tools or attribution of material generated by AI tools, consult the instructor before submitting work.

  4. Plagiarism: additional guidelines for law students

    The nature of law studies requires students to refer to many sources in order to answer questions in assignments and examinations. The following guidelines, relevant to studies in the Faculty of Law, should be read in conjunction with the general rules in section 3.
    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 course, they cannot submit any part of that paper as original work for another course. If students wish to use their own previous work, they must use the proper quotation and citation format to identify that previous source.


  5. How to cite sources appropriately?

    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.

    Further guidelines can be found in "Law School Plagiarism v. Proper Attribution", a paper by the Legal Writing Institute. ( Students can also refer to this explanation of the difference between citation and quotation

  6. Penalties for Plagiarism

    The penalties for plagiarism are severe. 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. 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 course.

  7. 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.

  8. 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. Nor may you 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.