Plagiarism is a very serious matter, consisting in the presentation of the work of others as though it were your own. This definition embraces equally the presentation of an entire essay or dissertation written by someone else, and the inclusion in your work of text written by others but not properly identified as such through use of quotation marks and references. Plagiarism also includes the use of footnotes and any other material obtained from secondary works that are not clearly cited as the source.
According to University regulations: ‘No candidate shall make use of unfair means in any University examination. Unfair means shall include plagiarism and, unless such possession is specifically authorized, the possession of any book, paper or other material relevant to the examination. No member of the University shall assist a candidate to make use of such unfair means.’
You should be particularly alert to the danger of plagiarising when writing a dissertation. You will be expected to have a solid grasp of existing publications relevant to your topic, but the work that you submit must be your own, and the contribution of others fully acknowledged. It is vital that you maintain a clear distinction between your own ideas and views derived from published literature or presented by others in seminars. If you present as your own ideas those which are in fact drawn from the work of others, you run the risk of being penalised by the examiners, and disciplined by the University.
Note that there has been a substantial revision which includes an amendment to the University-wide statement on plagiarism following a recent ruling of the University Tribunal - that a student may be found guilty of an act of plagiarism irrespective of intent to deceive, and be subject to the deprivation of a degree – as well as revisions to the procedures to be followed by Examiners in handling suspected cases of plagiarism.
The University’s Statement on Plagiarism, which relates to all written work you may submit, including essays as well as dissertations, is as follows:
‘Plagiarism is defined as submitting as one's own work, irrespective of intent to deceive, that which derives in part or in its entirety from the work of others without due acknowledgement. It is both poor scholarship and a breach of academic integrity.
Examples of plagiarism include copying (using another person’s language and/or ideas as if they are a candidate’s own), by:
- quoting verbatim another person’s work without due acknowledgement of the source;
- paraphrasing another person’s work by changing some of the words, or the order of the words, without due acknowledgement of the source;
- using ideas taken from someone else without reference to the originator;
- cutting and pasting from the Internet to make a pastiche of online sources;
- submitting someone else’s work as part of a candidate’s own without identifying clearly who did the work. For example, buying or commissioning work via professional agencies such as ‘essay banks’ or ‘paper mills’, or not attributing research contributed by others to a joint project.
Plagiarism might also arise from colluding with another person, including another candidate, other than as permitted for joint project work (i.e. where collaboration is concealed or has been forbidden). A candidate should include a general acknowledgement where he or she has received substantial help, for example with the language and style of a piece of written work.
Plagiarism can occur in respect to all types of sources and media: text, illustrations, musical quotations, mathematical derivations, computer code, etc; material downloaded from websites or drawn from manuscripts or other media; published and unpublished material, including lecture handouts and other students’ work.
Acceptable means of acknowledging the work of others (by referencing, in footnotes, or otherwise) vary according to the subject matter and mode of assessment. Faculties or Departments should issue written guidance on the relevant scholarly conventions for submitted work, and also make it clear to candidates what level of acknowledgement might be expected in written examinations. Candidates are required to familiarize themselves with this guidance, to follow it in all work submitted for assessment, and may be required to sign a declaration to that effect. If a candidate has any outstanding queries, clarification should be sought from her or his Director of Studies, Course Director or Supervisor as appropriate.
Failure to conform to the expected standards of scholarship (e.g. by not referencing sources) in examinations may affect the mark given to the candidate’s work. In addition, suspected cases of the use of unfair means (of which plagiarism is one form) will be investigated and may be brought to one of the University’s Courts. The Courts have wide powers to discipline those found guilty of using unfair means in an examination, including depriving such persons of membership of the University, and deprivation of a degree.’
How to avoid plagiarism
- when presenting the view and work of others, include in the text an indication of the source of the material, e.g. ‘as Sharpe has shown,’ and give full details of the work consulted in your footnote and bibliography.
- if you quote text verbatim, place the sentence in inverted commas, and give the full details of the appropriate reference in your footnote and bibliography.
- if you wish to set out the work of another at length so that you can produce a counter-argument, set the quoted text apart from your own text (e.g. by indenting a paragraph) and identify it by using inverted commas and adding a reference as above. NB long quotations may infringe copyright, which exists for the life of the author plus 70 years.
- if you are copying text, keep a note of the author and the reference as you go along, with the copied text, so that you will not mistakenly think the material to be your own work when you come back to it in a few weeks’ time.
- if you wish to collaborate with another person on your project, you should check with your supervisor and then check permission.
- if you have been authorised to work together with another candidate or other researchers, you must acknowledge their contribution fully in your introductory section. If there is likely to be any doubt as to who contributed which part of the work, you should make this clear in the text wherever necessary, e.g. ‘I am grateful to A. Smith for her technical analysis of this work’.
- be careful if cutting and pasting work from electronic media, and do not fail to attribute the work to its source. If authorship of the electronic source is not given, ask yourself whether it is worth using.
The Golden Rule
If you practise good note-taking from the start you should be able to avoid any inadvertent use of the work of others. The examiners must be in no doubt as to which parts of your work are your own original work and which are the rightful property of someone else.