I’m a visual arts examiner, so recently I have had the pleasure of looking at and assessing a wide range of uploaded visual arts work.

It is one of the best parts of the job, and I really enjoy seeing the fantastic work submitted by creative and productive students from all over the world!

“Reworking” Images

As an examiner I regularly encounter “reworked” images that have either been directly copied from images found on the internet or are an adjusted/modified version of the original. The degree of reworking varies. Sometimes it’s very similar to the original, or there may have been many modifications/alterations.

I’m afraid that I have just had to notify the IB Academic Honesty team that the work of one student contains multiple images that appear to be more or less direct copies of the work of other artists, with no explanation or acknowledgement of this work and no references to the originals.

Failing Conditions

Referencing and acknowledging sources etc are not part of the marking criteria, but if there is no referencing, or plagiarism is detected, it is what is referred to as a “failing condition”. Instances of plagiarism are reported to the IB Academic Honesty team by examiners and/or schools themselves each examination session.

“A candidate’s failure to acknowledge a source will be investigated by the IB as a potential breach of regulations that may result in a penalty imposed by the IB final award committee”. (Visual Arts Guide)

Oh sorry I didn’t realize that I had to give that information” and/or “I meant to…”

Remember, the Academic Honesty team do not care whether the plagiarism is deliberate or the result of your poor organizational skills: there is no discrimination between intentional misrepresentation and plagiarism that is a result of a misinformed or poorly organised work practices, so it’s no good saying “I forgot to include the references”.

Candidates – you – “are expected to demonstrate that all sources have been acknowledged”. (Visual Arts Guide page 5)


Extending the search for evidence

Plagiarism in Visual Arts can be difficult to prove so, once alerted, the Academic Honesty team often target your work in other subjects to find more concrete evidence.

(The logic seems to be “Hey, if you cheat here you may well be cheating there as well”).

So they will probably pull out your Extended Essay and your Theory of Knowledge essay and see what turns up, because work submitted in written form is much easier to check than images. And it works: often, where students have been deliberately dishonest in the passing off of another’s work as their own in one subject they also do this in other subjects.

BSTS (“Better Safe than sorry!”)

Obviously, you do not want to do anything – or fail to do anything – that might lead to any part of your submitted work being considered as a potential failing condition. So – better safe than sorry–ALWAYS ACKNOWLEDEGE ALL SOURCES!

There is, of course, nothing wrong with visual research/visual exploration. Evidence of your art being informed by the works of others can show that you aware of and learning from relevant artists. Looking at the work of others is a valid, useful and reasonable part of the creative process.

Obviously, the source images should be included in the visual arts journal and all sources, fully referenced, become part of the uploaded material in the relevant component.


The visual arts guide states that:

“Coordinators and teachers are reminded that candidates must acknowledge all sources used in work submitted for assessment… If a candidate uses the work or ideas of another person the candidate must acknowledge the source using a standard style of referencing in a consistent manner.

A candidate’s failure to acknowledge a source will be investigated by the IB as a potential breach of regulations that may result in a penalty imposed by the IB final award committee…

Candidates…expected to demonstrate that all sources have been acknowledged. Candidates must be advised that audio-visual material, text, graphs, images and/or data published in print or in electronic sources that is not their own must also always attribute the source.”

(pp. 4-5)