Understanding plagiarism

‘Plagiarism is defined as the use of another person’s work (including but not limited to any materials, creations, ideas and data) as if one’s own without due acknowledgement, whether or not such work has been published and regardless of the intent to deceive. Self-plagiarism is defined as the reuse of one’s own work without acknowledging that such work has been submitted elsewhere.’

Policy on Student Plagiarism in Undergraduate and Taught Postgraduate Curricula

Plagiarism is the presentation of another person’s work as one’s own. Plagiarism may involve written materials, statistical data, physical creations, abstract ideas, and other matters. The key point is that if the intellectual property of others is used without due acknowledgment, an offense of plagiarism is committed. This is the case whether or not such work has been published, and regardless of the intent to deceive.

Self-plagiarism is also plagiarism. It is the reuse of one’s own work without acknowledging that it has already been submitted elsewhere.

Plagiarism covers all forms of assessment, including theses, dissertations, take-home examinations, assignments, projects, and all other forms of coursework. The same rules apply whether students work individually or in groups.

It can take many forms. Indeed, any of the following may constitute plagiarism. You should consult your teachers when in doubt.

  • copying word for word from a source without due acknowledgement of the source;
  • closely paraphrasing, or substantial copying with minor modifications (such as changing grammar, adding a few words or reversing active/passive voices), without due acknowledgement of the source;
  • translating a source in one language into another language and using it as your own without due acknowledgement of the source;
  • collusion or unauthorized collaboration between students on a piece of work without acknowledging the assistance received;
  • use of the work of another student or a third party (e.g. an essay writing service)  for submission as one’s original work; and
  • submitting part or all of the same assignment for different courses without acknowledging it, which is a form of self-plagiarism.

It does not matter what the nature of source is. It may be published in traditional text or on the internet. It may be a book, an article, a dissertation, a Government report, a table, a memorandum, an assignment of another student, or teaching material distributed to you. The sources may also be graphics, computer programmes, photographs, video and audio recordings or other non-textual materials. It does not matter whether the source has been published or not.

The test of plagiarism is whether the work will give an ordinary reader a reasonable impression that the work is the original work of the author when it is in fact a copy of the work of someone else.

Plagiarism is a matter of integrity and honesty. The University is committed to upholding the highest standards of academic integrity as articulated in the educational aims and institutional learning outcomes for its curricula. All staff and students must undertake not to commit, or assist or encourage others to commit, plagiarism.

Plagiarism stifles creativity and originality. If you think you cannot express the idea better than the source article, plagiarism is not the solution. Rather, you should seek assistance from your teachers, classmates and friends to find a way forward that constitutes real learning.

Contributory factors are not relevant to determining whether or not you have plagiarized. It may be because you did not have enough time to do the research or reading (because you left it to the last minute). It may be because you think your English is not good enough and you fear you will be penalized. It may be a matter of ignorance and inexperience. It may be that you have copied some passages in your notes and forgot to include the sources so that when you wrote your essay you thought they were paraphrases or even your own work. In short, it is a result of negligence rather than a deliberate intent to deceive. None of these factors can be used as a defence against the offence of committing plagiarism. The consequences will of course be more severe if it is shown that you intended to deceive.

This question is similar to asking how much stealing would constitute theft. Strictly speaking, even lifting a sentence from another source without acknowledgement constitutes plagiarism. Sometimes students think that there is no plagiarism if their work includes only a small portion of plagiarized passages but a substantial part of their own work. This is wrong. Even a small portion of plagiarized passages is sufficient to taint the whole piece of work. The extent of plagiarism may only be relevant in determining the appropriate consequences.

Ignorance of the law is no defence, because otherwise anyone can choose not to know the law and have a solid defence. The same applies to plagiarism. The offence is defined in the University regulations. It is the responsibility of all students to familiarize themselves with proper academic practice of writing, citation and referencing. You should consult your teachers when in doubt.

Find out more about learning resources for students

While the internet makes plagiarism easier, it also makes detection of plagiarism easier. It is not very difficult for an experienced teacher to detect plagiarism, and tools such as Turnitin are also available.

Find out more about Turnitin 
Find out more about the University’s policy on student plagiarism