This post is going to be a bit different as rather than focusing simply on providing explanations, I’m going to look in detail at what plagiarism is. Often people don’t realise what they’re doing is plagiarism. It’s not intentional, but it is still an example of dishonest writing practice that we should all endeavour to avoid.
The problem is there are degrees of plagiarism, so its easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’re safe.
No-one likes their work/ideas being stolen. Authors will sue others if they believe their ideas have been stolen; bloggers don’t like others copying and pasting their work into another blog and academics wouldn’t like to see other academics stealing their work either. We also teach and encourage students to adopt academic best practice so they don’t plagiarise. (link to referencing blog)
The Open University have provided some guidance about the ways in which students can plagiarise, but the following should also help as a guide. Think about a continuum – at one end we have plagiarism and at the other we have properly referenced paraphrased writing. There are degrees of plagiarism and sometimes students aren’t sure where they’re crossing the line. My hope is that this post will help clarify some of the blurred boundaries.
- Text has been copied and pasted without any references. This is an example of a text that has simply been lifted from the internet.
Plagiarism receives increased attention after observing it in different student assignments in the academic environment, including reports, homework, projects, and many others. Academic plagiarism can be defined as using ideas, content, or structures without properly crediting the source
- Text has been copied and pasted, but individual words or phrases have been changed (usually with the help of a thesaurus). In the example below, I’ve highlighted the changes in blue and underline.
Plagiarism gets increased attention after observing it in various student assessments in the academic environment, including reports, homework, projects, and many others. Academic plagiarism can be defined as using ideas, content, or structures without properly referencing the source
- Paraphrased (put into your own words) but no references provided. You can see in the example below, I have taken the words from the quote in 1. above and put the ideas into my own words. But even though it is now my own words, they are someone else’s ideas, which is why they need to be referenced.
Academics have noticed increasing incidence of plagiarism amongst students, their work is scrutinised more closely. Plagiarism is falsely presenting work as your own
- A piece of writing has been produced that only contains quotations (properly referenced). Even though they are properly referenced I would reject this as an assignment submission. The information has not been used in any way to answer the questions; no attempt to provide any interpretation or analysis, simply shows me that the author can copy and paste. Technically I’d consider this as plagiarism and a few years ago I had a student fail an open book external exam because they did this. This was considered as plagiarism by the examing body. An example of properly referenced quotations is provided above.
- Quotations which support arguments etc have been provided and are fully referenced. While not plagiarism, I would encourage students to paraphrase as it shows a deeper understanding. They’re more likely to expand and develop their thinking, being more critical. Also, typically, to helps to reduce word count.
How I presented the quotation from Oxford University above is an example of what this would look like.
- Properly referenced paraphrasing – work is presented in student’s own words and is fully supported with accurate references.
Academics have noticed increasing incidence of plagiarism amongst students, their work is scrutinised more closely. Plagiarism is falsely presenting work as your own (Elkhatat, Elsaid & Almeer, 2021)
Just because something is on the internet, it doesn’t mean its ok to use it – Points 1-3 are basically all and any work with zero references in it. Think about it – everything in our heads has originally come from someone/somewhere else – so we need to credit the original source. If you can’t do that, you should ensure you use a reputable source to evidence your knowledge. I would also recommend to students to produce the references section as you go – from experience there is nothing worse than getting to the end of your work and not being able to find the source where you read a piece of information you really want to include, and then requring to drop it because it can’t be referenced.
Only stages 5 and 6 above would be considered to be plagiarism free, but depending on your level, most lecturers will be looking for more evidence of parapharasing. In fact, I would prefer my students don’t provide any direct quotes, that their work is 100% paraphrasing.
I hope the above has provided some guidance for any budding students out there, but please use the comments section if you have any questions.
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