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Avoiding plagiarism

Plagiarism refers to presenting someone else’s work as your own, either for publication or for coursework on an academic programme, without making it clear that the ideas or words come from another source. Here is a more comprehensive definition of plagiarism from The University of Reading’s Academic Integrity Toolkit (2017);

Plagiarism is when someone else’s work is passed off as your own. It may include:

  • Using someone else’s words directly without accurately acknowledging their authorship (whether this is from a published source or another student)

  • Using ideas from someone else’s work without accurately acknowledging their source

  • Colluding with another student to produce the same or similar work

  • Passing off someone else’s original work (eg a commissioned essay) as your own.

Although you may be thinking that you would never be so dishonest, it is possible to commit plagiarism unintentionally. Unintentional plagiarism can happen if:

  • You are not careful about recording details or note-making

  • You do not learn how to cite references to comply with university standards

  • You do not fully understand the role that references play in your academic writing.

These errors also put you at risk of committing poor academic practice. This is the term used when you produce work which may be fully referenced, but (for instance) relies too heavily on only one or two sources, or is generally too derivative (includes too many words quoted from other people and not enough of your own analysis and exposition), or is inadequately paraphrased (too close to the original).

Plagiarism is viewed as an academic offence, and depending on the severity of the offence, the penalties range from loss of reputation, to lose of marks on a degree programme or even being asked to leave the programme.

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This article is from the free online course:

An Intermediate Guide to Writing in English for University Study

University of Reading