This document provides information about the concept of plagiarism and ways in which it can be avoided.
For information about the use of 'Turnitin' software (for text matching online and detecting plagiarism), please refer to your subject lecturer who is using the system for instructions in how to use it.
- What is plagiarism?
- Is plagiarism limited to words and ideas?
- Why should I acknowledge the work of others?
- What are the penalties for plagiarism?
- How can I avoid plagiarism?
- What is the policy for plagiarism at Wollongong University?
- Where can I get further assistance with academic literacy and conventions?
Simply put, plagiarism is using the ideas, words, images or any form of representation made by someone else (authors, critics, journalists, academics, artists, lecturers, tutors, other students, and so on) without giving them proper acknowledgement. It is presenting the words and/or ideas of others as though they were your own - whether or not that information is plagiarised intentionally or unintentionally.
You always need to
- provide a reference whenever you include information from other sources in your work, and
- be aware of the academic conventions concerning referencing
Plagiarism is not limited to words and ideas; it also includes materials such as video and audio recordings, art and graphics, photographs, maps, diagrams, graphs and tables, computer programs or codes, research, and so on. This material can come from published sources, including books, journals, websites, films, newspapers and journals as well as unpublished sources such as lecture and tutorial notes and work by students.
UNLESS IT IS CONSIDERED GENERAL KNOWLEDGE, ALL MATERIAL THAT YOU USE IN YOUR WORK THAT
COMES FROM SOMEONE ELSE MUST BE ACKNOWLEDGED.
There are two main reasons why you should acknowledge the sources of your information:
- By not acknowledging the sources, you are in effect stealing (i.e. plagiarising).
- By acknowledging the sources correctly and effectively, you are strengthening your own work.
Plagiarism is, in essence, an issue of intellectual property. If someone else has spent a great deal of time researching a topic, for example, then it is only right for that person to be credited for this work. Not acknowledging the intellectual property of others in your own work is the academic equivalent of stealing. The University of Wollongong’s policy on acknowledging sources of information states that if a student fails to properly acknowledge the sources used in her/his work, this is:
- unfair to the author;
- unfair to other students who do their own work without copying;
- failure to do independent work as expected in a university; and
- breach of copyright.
Generally speaking, academic sources – statistics, facts, expert opinions, examples – strengthen your work by showing it is not only your personal opinion, but is also a well-informed and well-supported view. This is not to say that by including a lot of research into your work you will automatically create an academic text. To effectively use sources in your work, there are academic conventions that you need to learn, like when to use direct and indirect quotations and how to integrate evidence into your writing, just to name a few. These conventions are discussed in part v, How can I avoid plagiarism?
The penalties for plagiarism can be severe and can range from a zero grade for an assignment or subject to expulsion from a subject and from the university. For this reason, you need to learn how to avoid plagiarism.
Avoiding plagiarism is made easier by developing an awareness of academic writing skills and conventions. Some of these include:
- Efficient and effective note-taking and note-making strategies;
- An understanding of the difference between direct and indirect quotations;
- An understanding of the difference between summarising and paraphrasing;
- An understanding of how to integrate evidence from sources into your writing; and
- An understanding of referencing conventions.
Short explanations of these conventions and skills are provided below. It should be noted, however, that this information is highly condensed and is only meant to create a general awareness. Finally, you should also refer to the guidelines for referencing within your faculty, as there can be minor variations across the university.
Effective note-taking and note-making strategies will help you to keep records of exactly where you have found your information. There is nothing worse than finding information and integrating it into your work only to find that you can’t remember where you found it. Remember, if you can’t reference the information, you can’t use it. An effective and efficient method of note-taking is the Cornell Method as it separates notes into themes, notes, and responses, in the process helping you to develop a critical response as you read.
An indirect quotation is when you use the ideas of the author but use your own words. An indirect quotation must be referenced as the ideas are not yours. An indirect quotation can either be a summary or a paraphrase of the original and should not change the meaning by removing or adding essential information. The difference between a summary and a paraphrase is explained in part c.A direct quotation is when you use the exact words of the author in your work. Of course, a direct quotation must be referenced. There are specific conventions for using direct quotations in your work; for instance, direct quotations should be used far less frequently than indirect quotations. Also, a direct quotation should be enclosed by quotation marks, unless it is longer than a few lines, in which case it should be indented. These are just two of many conventions relating to the use of direct quotations.
A summary and a paraphrase are both indirect quotations; that is, they both encapsulate the ideas of an author but are expressed in your own words. There are two types of summary: an outline summary and a main point summary. An outline summary reduces a piece of text to at least a third the length of the original, whereas a main point summary is a sentence or two that states the main idea of a text or piece of text.
A paraphrase is usually about the same length as the original piece of text but is written in your own words. You need to be aware of acceptable levels of paraphrasing. Changing words and/or the grammar is often not sufficient. A paraphrase must be in your own words, and, as with a summary, you must not alter the meaning of the original.
When using evidence in your writing, it must be integrated in such a way that it supports your argument; evidence should not be presented as a substitute for establishing your own argument. A common mistake is to present a lot of information that is not integrated in such a way that it supports an argument. In such cases, the marker is left wondering how the information directly answers the question.
Why reference? At university it is necessary to acknowledge the sources of information and ideas that you have incorporated into your assignments. Failure to do this thoroughly may result in accusations of plagiarism. While some students may view plagiarism as a relatively harmless offence, university departments take it very seriously.
Referencing is not only about acknowledging other people’s work: accurate referencing and lists of references are beneficial as they allow readers to follow up information and read further into the area. This aspect of referencing will become more valuable to you as you progress in your studies.
When to reference
You should include a reference when you have incorporated an idea or concept into your work which is not your own (although you don’t need to include a reference when the idea or concept is common knowledge in your discipline). A reference is required regardless of whether those ideas or concepts are quoted in an author’s words, or whether they are rephrased in your own words (paraphrasing or summarising).
How to reference: referencing systems
There are two main referencing systems: in-text referencing (otherwise known as the author-date or Harvard System of referencing) and the notation system of referencing. These differ in i) the format of the references, and ii) in the location of the references. In-text referencing incorporates information on the author of the material cited and the date of publication within the body of the text, whereas the notation system places this information either at the bottom of the page (footnotes), or at the end of the text (endnotes). One disadvantage of in-text referencing is that the references may interrupt the flow of the text. Footnotes and endnotes, on the other hand, also pose a problem because they require the reader to look outside the body of the text for the reference.
Different faculties and departments have their preferred referencing system. If no guidelines regarding referencing are given in your subject outline or Faculty handbook, the best thing to do is to check with your lecturer or tutor.
To see the rules for acknowledging sources of information and for plagiarism, go to the Academic Integrity Policy. This document covers:
- Acknowledgement Practice.
- Acknowledging Sources of Quotations.
- Acknowledging Sources of Ideas.
- Common Knowledge.
- How to Avoid Plagiarism.
- Academic Unit Procedures for Investigating Plagiarism and other Forms of Cheating.
Learning Development offers lunchtime workshops, web resources, handouts and individual consultations on various aspects of academic work, including academic writing, editing, referencing, critical reading & writing, note-taking, and so on.