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Online Undergraduate Handbook


Plagiarism is presenting the ideas, work or words of other people without proper, clear and unambiguous acknowledgement. It also includes ‘self-plagiarism’ (which occurs where, for example, you submit work that you have presented for assessment on a previous occasion), and the submission of material from ‘essay banks’ (even if the authors of such material appear to be giving you permission to use it in this way). Obviously, the most blatant example of plagiarism would be to copy another student’s work. Hence it is

essential to make clear in your assignments the distinction between:

  • the ideas and work of other people that you may have quite legitimately exploited and developed, and
  • the ideas or material that you have personally contributed.


To assist you, here are a few important do’s and don’ts:

 •    Do get lots of background information on subjects you are writing about to help you form your own view of the subject. The information could be from electronic journals, technical reports,unpublished dissertations, etc. Make a note of the source of every piece of information at the time you record it, even if it is just one sentence.

TOP TIP When you are reading books, articles, websites etc and taking notes, ensure that your notes indicate where you have copied text verbatim so that you do not subsequently reproduce it in your work without the necessary quotation marks. Some students inadvertently fall foul of plagiarism rules because they are not scrupulous in their note taking. All direct quotation should be in quotation marks with the authors, date and page reference provided.

When you find useful information in books, journals, on the web etc, make sure you note the source, including page numbers, full website address etc at the time. As well as being the most efficient way of doing research, this is worthwhile because you may not be able to find it again later.

•    Don’t construct a piece of work by cutting and pasting or copying material written by other people, or by you for any other purpose, into something you are submitting as your own work. Sometimes you may need to quote someone else’s exact form of words in order to analyse or criticize them, in which case the quotation must be enclosed in quotation marks to show that it is a direct quote, and it must have the source properly acknowledged at that point. Any omissions from a quotation must be indicated by an ellipsis (…) and any additions for clarity must be enclosed in square brackets, e.g. “[These] results suggest… that the hypothesis iscorrect.” It may also be appropriate to reproduce a diagram from someone else’s work, but again the source must be explicitly and fully acknowledged there. However, constructing large chunks of documents from a string of quotes, even if they are acknowledged, is another form of plagiarism.

TOP TIP The Faculty of Humanities Study Skills website explains how to cite sources in the text or body of your work and how to produce a list of references at the end.  The Library offers an online tutorial on avoiding plagiarism.

•    Do attribute all ideas to their original authors. Written ‘ideas’ are the product that authors produce. You would not appreciate it if other people passed off your ideas as their own, and that is what plagiarism rules are intended to prevent. A good rule of thumb is that each idea or statement that you write should be attributed to a source unless it is your personal idea or it is common knowledge. (If you are unsure if something is common knowledge, ask other students: if they don’t know what you are talking about, then it is not common knowledge!)

TOP TIP If there are only one or two key sources for a particular part of your report, and which you have used fairly intensively, then you should insert a sentence towards the beginning of the relevant section or paragraph along the following lines: “This section draws heavily on Jones (2000, pp.18-25) and KeyNote (2003, pp.1-35)..…”. As usual, ensure that any direct quotations are indicated by “..…..”.

As you can see, it is most important that you understand what is expected of you when you prepare and produce assignments and that you always observe proper academic conventions for referencing and acknowledgement, whether working by yourself or as part of a team. In practice, there are a number of acceptable styles of referencing depending, for example, on the particular discipline you are studying, so if you are not certain what is appropriate, ask your tutor or the course unit coordinator for advice! This should ensure that you do not lay yourself open to a charge of plagiarism inadvertently, or through ignorance of what is expected. It is also important to remember that you do not absolve yourself from a charge of plagiarism simply by including a reference to a source in a bibliography that you have included with your assignment; you should always be scrupulous about indicating precisely where and to what extent you have made use of such a source.

So far, plagiarism has been described as using the words or work of someone else (without proper attribution), but it could also include a close paraphrase of their words, or a minimally adapted version of a computer program, a diagram, a graph, an illustration, etc taken from a variety of sources without proper acknowledgement. These could be lectures, printed material, the Internet or other electronic/AV sources.

Remember: no matter what pressure you may be under to complete an assignment, you should never succumb to the temptation to take a ‘short cut’ and use someone else’s material inappropriately. No amount of mitigating circumstances will get you off the hook, and if you persuade other students to let you copy their work, they risk being disciplined as well – see the Section on Collusion.

Finally, it is also unacceptable to represent your own work as being that of others - a sort of 'reverse plagiarism'. For example, inventing data or references to lend spurious credibility to your own work is misrepresentation and will be penalised. You may be required to produce (or locate for inspection) a copy of any references or data you cite in work submitted for assessment.

If you are in doubt about any of this - consult the member of staff responsible for the assignment, or your Academic Advisor.