Right the way through – teacher notes

The final two case studies draw attention to the need to behave ethically towards other researchers by reporting results honestly and by avoiding plagiarism

As with previous case studies, Heather and Sol both started off well. Their projects were well-focused and well-planned, they worked hard and did a lot of very good and interesting work, but – possibly driven by a wish to produce what they perceived as a ‘good’ project report – went ethically astray towards the end.

Activity 8: Good report?

Points emerging in discussion of plagiarism might include:

  • another researcher whose work is plagiarised could miss out on getting the credit and recognition for what they have done
  • people reading a report of plagiarised work are, effectively, being lied to

It’s worth acknowledging that ‘writing in your own words’ can be difficult, particularly when the content is unfamiliar and challenging. With someone else’s words readily to hand it can be hard to avoid reproducing them. Suggest to students that they write brief notes while reading their source material, then close the websites, put away the books and allow at least a few hours before trying to write their own account, which they should do with reference only to their own notes and not to the original sources.

Points emerging in a discussion of reporting altered or incomplete data might include:

  • if data do not fit an expected pattern, then maybe the expected pattern is incorrect – if so, the data might indicate something unexpected and interesting, and ‘correcting’ the data might mean that the researcher misses out on making a new discovery
  • altering data is a form of lying as it involves giving incorrect information
  • reporting selected data involves lying by being ‘economical with the truth’
  • other researchers might waste time and resources trying to reproduce and build on incorrect results

Emphasise that data and the results derived from them should always be reported completely and honestly. If (after checking for possible mistakes) results do not fit an expected pattern, then students should comment on any differences and attempt to account for them. 


About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Go Further: A practical guide to extended science projects’ in October 2016.

Statistics and maths, Careers, Psychology
Go Further: A practical guide to extended science projects
Education levels:
16–19, Independent research projects, Continuing professional development