Plagiarism FAQs

The following serve as FAQs with reference to the issue of plagiarism within schools, colleges and universities:

What’s so wrong with plagiarising?
In short it is illegal. It is also not fair to other students who have taken the time and effort to assiduously prepare and write up their own work. It is also unfair with respect to the original author as they deserve to be academically credited for their effort. You can read more in our guide to the consequences of plagiarism.
What if there is no author name attached to the content which I have read?
In this case, you still have a responsibility to acknowledge the fact that you are not the original author of the content. In worst case scenario where no author name is clearly visible you can simply insert words such as ‘unknown’ and/or ‘anonymous’ as a reference.
How do I avoid plagiarising?
The main, primary avoidance tactic is to understand and follow the reference conventions for your chosen subject discipline.
My friend purchased an assignment and submitted to earn a high-grade classification, why shouldn’t I do the same?
Because it is plagiarism. Submitting someone else’s work as your own is plagiarism and this will not only have a negative impact on your overall grade classification but could also result in you incurring further disciplinary penalties.
My friend and I often work together when completing essays, such as crossover of ideas on how to structure it etc. Is this okay?
Provided that you do not copy extensively from each other and the work you submit is your own, this is absolutely fine. In fact in some cases, modules require you to work as part of a group in completing a research assignment therefore participation is actively encouraged.
Are you allowed to use online content?
Yes you are allowed to use online content provided it is referenced correctly. It is only with misuse that online content becomes an issue for colleges and universities.
Does it matter how much is copied?
Whether it is a phrase or a whole paragraph it is still plagiarism if you try to pass someone else’s work off as your own.
Is it still plagiarism even if I change the words?
In short, yes, it is still plagiarism. This is because plagiarism includes ideas as well as words, so you must ensure that ideas are your own as well as words.
What is the difference between paraphrasing and direct quotations?
Firstly it is important to state that both require citation. The difference is that direct quotations often require a page number to be identified as well as the authors name and year of publication. This is aimed at making it easier for academic tutors to source the original quote when marking the piece.
If I cite the source, does this serve as a guarantee that I have avoided plagiarism?
No. This is because it depends how much content you stream from the cited source. For example if you quote whole paragraphs and/or a substantial sections of a source text you are negating the extent to which you can receive marks from demonstrating your own critical thinking. If you haven’t provided any other author to contrast the idea or advanced any individual analysis or comment, this still constitutes an example of plagiarism.
Does it matter if I didn’t know that what I did was considered an act of plagiarism?
Depending on the penalty system within your particular academic institution it is highly likely that you will still face some level of disciplinary action because most academic institutions have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to plagiarism therefore mitigating factors are rarely considered.
Surely I can use something like a dictionary without needing to cite it academically?
If you are using it simply as an aid to spelling then it is fine, however, if you are using it for definitions or actively quote material from it then it could scan as plagiarism. This is because it is an element of intellectual property which is not the original work of yourself.
What is the purpose of acknowledging the source author?
Mainly, the reason why we cite references it to pay due credit to the author of the academic content. Equally, acknowledging the source author also enables the reader to better identify where the output of your work fits in with the existing body of literature surrounding a specific subject matter.
I have too many assignments to complete within the timeframe given by the university, I have also been ill recently. Would it therefore, under these circumstances, be justified for me to use someone else’s work to complete my assignment by the deadline date?
There are no mitigating circumstances with plagiarism. In no cases is it justified to copy another author’s work and pass it off as your own.
I have found an essay online which answers my research question exactly, surely if I pay for it, the product is then mine and I can do with it as I wish?
Wrong. This is one of the main causes of increased plagiarism in universities in recent years. The work you have purchased has still been completed by someone else and it is therefore not your work. To pass it off as your own is an act of academic plagiarism.
Will colleges or universities keep a file on me if I am caught plagiarising?
It is highly likely that they will do yes. In most cases this is standard academic practice to prevent the spread of plagiarism i.e. if you choose to enrol at an alternative academic institution. Equally the file could also harm your references in attempting to secure gainful employment post study. This further magnifies the point that you should avoid plagiarising academic work at all costs. If you do it will not only harm you in an academic context but also in a career context moving forward into the future.
What does the department head do if my report scans as being plagiarised?
Often the department heads within most UK colleges and universities will be given explicit authority to impose penalties on you as a student if your work scans as having a high plagiarism score. As earlier noted in this section there are no mitigating circumstances with regards to being caught plagiarising academic material therefore the disciplinary action faced by you will most likely be severe.
A classmate of mine asked for assistance in the assignment write up process. I have since found that they have stolen a large part of my work. Am I liable if they are found to have plagiarised?
Only if you are complicit. If you had no knowledge of them having streamed large sections of your work to pass it off as their own then you will not have a problem. In the event of finding someone to have used large parts of your work you should immediately contact the department head or your course leader to ensure that they are made aware of it. This will demonstrate that you are not complicit and also prevent your classmate from unethically benefiting from all of your hard work and effort.
What support is there for me as a student to avoid submitting plagiarised work?
There is a range of support tools available to you as a student to ensure that you avoid submitting plagiarised content. Firstly, you should engage in regular dialogue with your academic tutor and/or course leader to ensure that they are kept abreast of any problems which you may have. Beyond that you have also got services such as Viper Plagiarism Checker which enables you to take more individual responsibility with respect to managing the risk of plagiarism and ensuring that you do not fall into the common traps which befall most students.