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What is plagiarism?

In all aspects of academic study and research, thoughts and ideas inevitably build on those of other writers or researchers - this is a legitimate and indeed essential part of the academic process. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines plagiarism as the taking and using as one's own ... the thoughts, writings, or inventions of another. In an academic context, plagiarism implies a deliberate act on the part of the writer or researcher to use the work, ideas or expressions of others as if they were his or her own.

Deliberate plagiarism, therefore, is academic cheating, and the university has a very firm view on this: anyone found to have deliberately copied or plagiarised the work of others is severely penalised. The University regulation concerning academic dishonesty is included in the Undergraduate (p.11) and Postgraduate (section A:14) Regulations; most departmental handbooks also include a statement of the University's policy in respect of academic dishonesty.

Deliberate plagiarism with a clear intention to cheat is, however, far less common than plagiarism committed through misunderstanding or even carelessness. These latter types of plagiarism may occur if:

  1. you fail to acknowledge fully the sources of knowledge and ideas that you use in your work;
  2. you incorporate the words of others into your writing as if they were your own;
  3. you 'string together' ideas or facts taken from others without presenting your own viewpoint.

Many students, particularly those at the beginning of their courses, are unclear about how to use the work of others in a way that does not constitute plagiarism. This leaflet has been written to give guidance on how to avoid plagiarism and at the same time produce work of better quality.