What is Plagiarism?
Plagiarism is when you copy the work of other people and pass it off as your own, either accidentally or deliberately.
Types of Plagiarism
Unfortunately, there's quite a few ways you can plagiarise, including:
Copying words, sentences, ideas, images or other material from someone else without saying where you got the material from (giving the person credit).
Minor changing (paraphrasing) of other people's words - simply making like-for-like word substitutions, while keeping the sentence structure and flow intact. This means making small changes to sentences, paragraphs or any work by changing some words for others.
Not using quotation marks for direct quotations of others' words. This is considered plagiarism even if you reference the source (where you got the quote from), because the words you have used are not yours.
Paraphrasing or summarising others' ideas or words but not referencing the source (not mentioning the person who created the work, the website, book, or any place where you got the information).
Why is Plagiarism Bad?
Plagiarism is very bad. Here are some of the reasons
- You teacher will think twice about trusting you if you have plagiarised, so it will badly affect your relationship with your teacher. It’s a difficult and stressful situation, both for you and the teacher
- It's just plain wrong not to credit the work of other people. How would you like it if you did a good piece of work and someone copied it and pretended it was theirs?
- Coursework and assignments are meant to help assess how well you're doing on your course. The mark you get on these is supposed to show the good work you put in. If you plagiarise/ copy or “steal” material and pass it off as your own, the mark you get is basically wrong and can cause bad consequences for your final award because you've cheated
- Coursework and assignments are also meant to show you're ready for the next stage of your course, but if you need to plagiarise, that means you may not be ready to move to the next stage in your learning. So, you might struggle with the course
- It's not fair on your classmates who are doing honest work
- Would you trust a professional who plagiarised or cheated their way through college? How about a doctor or childminder? Would you trust these people if you found out they were guilty of plagiarism?
The Consequences of Plagiarism
Plagiarism is taken very seriously and can have real-life consequences. In academic institutions, penalties for plagiarism can include:
- Having your marks capped at the minimum pass mark – this is bad news for your final award grade
- Failing the module and having to retake it
- Suspension from the course
- Being withdrawn from the course
How to Avoid Plagiarism
Always take a note of all the information on sources that you use in your work. You should make a list of where you got any piece of information that's not your own. In the text of your work, you must note every time you're using words or ideas that are not your own and include a list of all the sources you've used at the end of the work. If you're comfortable using apps, then there are some apps you can use to manage the information sources you're using.
Always put quotation marks (“…”) around the words you copy directly from another information source. If you write in your assignment the first lines of the Queen song Bohemian Rhapsody:
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, No escape from reality
This is plagiarism, because without quotation marks, it looks like these are your words. Unless you're Freddie Mercury's ghost, these are not your words, so if you want to use these lines, you'd write:
"Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, No escape from reality" (Mercury, 1975)
So, by adding quotation marks (“…”), and “Mercury, 1975”, you include quotation marks and a reference to the author.
What is the usual right way to use quotes in your work?
It's not considered good form to have more than 10% of your work as direct quotations from other people. To understand this better, we can look at why we use quotes.
We use quotes:
- to show definitions (what something means) of words, ideas or concepts
- when you want to highlight good writing by the author - nice turns of phrase and vivid or powerful writing that stands out
- when you want to use an authority's or expert's exact words to lend support to your argument. You lend support to your essay or writing by using a powerful quote that gives your writing a strong ‘punch’
- to show that you researched the subject you are writing about and you found information that makes your argument or ideas stronger. In other words, you worked hard on a piece of work and you know what you’re talking about
- when the author's ideas are difficult to paraphrase, and you want to make sure that you get them right
Try to keep direct quotes to a minimum; it's your work that's being assessed, not the authors of the information sources that you use!
Paraphrasing is when you take someone else's words and rewrite them in your own words, sentence structure and voice. You can't just replace words here and there and leave the original sentence structure intact (as you found it). For example, take a look at this text:
"In their attempts at paraphrasing, some authors commit “near plagiarism” (or plagiarism, depending on who is doing the judging) because they fail to sufficiently modify the original text and, thus, produce an inappropriately paraphrased version" (Office of Research Integrity, n.d.)
Let's see what a good and bad paraphrase look like.
In their efforts at paraphrasing, a few writers perform near plagiarism (or plagiarism, contingent on who is doing the assessing), as they fail to suitably change the initial text and therefore generate an improperly paraphrased form
- Some words have been changed
- Sentence structure and voice are the same as the original
- The ‘bad paraphrase’ is bad because it doesn’t show any effort on the part of the student
Unless you make plenty of changes to the original text, your paraphrasing will probably be poor enough to be considered plagiarism
- Words have been changed
- Sentence structure and voice have been changed (for example their/they ==> you/your)
- The meaning of the text stays the same
To paraphrase, read the original text to understand it and then write it down in your own words. Compare it with the original. If it's too similar, then you need to work on it until it sounds more like your own voice
Summarising is providing a brief overview of the main ideas, facts or statements of an original text, written in your own words. Summarising is like paraphrasing, only shorter.
At a typical football match, we are likely to see players committing deliberate fouls, often behind the referee's back. They might try to take a throw-in or a free kick from an incorrect but more advantageous positions in defiance of the clearly stated rules of the game. They sometimes challenge the rulings of the referee or linesmen in an offensive way which often deserves punishment or even sending off. No wonder this leads spectators to fight amongst themselves, damage stadiums, or take the law into their own hands by invading the pitch in the hope of affecting the outcome of the match.
This is an example of how you can summarise the above text about footballers’ behaviour:
Unsporting behaviour by footballers may lead to fans behaving badly
To summarise, read the original text, until you're sure you understand it, write, in bullet-point form, the key ideas of the text and then use that to write the summary. Compare with the original text and revise and tweak as necessary
The Most Important Thing
Always cite your sources:
- Provide a short citation in the text (author, year) when you use someone else's work
- At the end of your work, include a list of all the information sources (other people's work) you used.
Mercury, F. (1975) Bohemian Rhapsody A Night at the Opera Available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ9rUzIMcZQ Accessed 21st September 2022
Office of Research Integrity (n.d.) Examples of Paraphrasing: Good and Bad Available at https://ori.hhs.gov/examples-paraphrasing-good-and-bad. Accessed 21st September 2022