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Referencing guide: Plagiarism

What is plagiarism?

plagiarise (also plagiarize)

▶ verb
Take (the work or an idea of someone else) and pass it off as one's own.

Stevenson, A., ed., 2010. Oxford Dictionary of English [online]. Revised edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Available from:

Indicators of plagiarism

You may be found guilty of plagiarism if:

  • You are presenting or passing off another person's work as your own
  • You import into your own work 'more than a single phrase from another person's work without the use of quotation marks and identification of the source'
  • You make 'extensive use of another person's work, either by summarising or paraphrasing it merely by changing a few words or altering the order of the presentation, without acknowledgement'
  • You use 'the ideas of another person without acknowledgement of the source' or submit or present work as your own 'which is substantially the ideas or intellectual data of another'
  • You submit the same piece of work for two different assignments, even if they are to different departments
  • You make 'a deliberate attempt at passing off the ideas or writings of another person as your own'
  • You take 'the words, ideas and labour of other people and give the impression that they are your own. Plagiarism is simply theft'

[From: Beat the Witch-hunt!, Peter Levin's Guide to Avoiding and Rebutting Accusations of Plagiarism for Conscientious Students. Please see this document for full references.]

If you have used AI tools to generate content

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a rapidly developing area wherein computer generated content is being used to create text, images and other resources.


If you decide to use these tools in your assignments you must reference them. To reference AI generated content, please see our Harvard Bath referencing guide and look under Generative AI content/Chat GPT and we have separate guidance on referencing AI generated images. We also recommend that you review the Centre for Learning and Teaching's guidance on referencing. If you have any questions about referencing AI generated content in your assignments, please email us at

Using AI generated content

Artificial intelligence extracts information from the internet to generate content. Therefore, AI generated content may contain biases and not produce factual information. AI generated content can be inconsistent and you might find different answers for the same queries. You should be aware of this if you want to refer back to something the AI content produced previously. You should critically evaluate any AI generated content you do use, as you would with any information you refer to and consider what its strengths and weaknesses are? Take a look at our guidance on lateral reading for more on this.

The journal articles, books and other scholarly resources which are available through the Library are usually peer-reviewed, which means that experts in the subject areas have scrutinised the work before it has been published. Although you should still be critical of what you are reading, the quality of the resources and the facts provided through peer-reviewed resources will be of a much greater quality than computer generated content as it currently stands.

AI currently has severe limitations with dealing with data in terms of mathematics and producing graphs and charts. If you decide to use AI you should use it as a tool to help, not as a means to writing an assignment. If you used AI to write an assignment and claim it as your own work, it would be considered plagiarism, which the University takes very seriously and could harm your university degree and career. For these reasons, managing your time, researching widely and referencing all of your tools and resources is important.

Library videos on plagiarism

Plagiarism: what it is

A short introduction video [3:42]

Plagiarism: how to avoid it

A more in depth video on how to avoid plagiarism [13:17]

Online tutorials

More information

  • Intra-corpal plagiarism. For example, copying from another student on your course
  • Extra-corpal plagiarism. For example, copying from an external source such as a book or journal
  • Collusion: working together for mutual benefit but with the intention of deceiving a third party
  • Autoplagiarism: citing your own work without acknowledging it
  • It's cheating
  • Plagiarism penalises honest students
  • It degrades academic standards, degrees and institutions
  • There may be a negative impact on professional standards if students are not learning the required topics properly

Your Course Handbook will contain a section on the penalties if you are caught plagiarising. These can range from being given 0% for a piece of assessed work to failing your degree. You may not think it happens, but since 2000 at least one University of Bath student who had plagiarised has been refused a degree and left the University after four years with nothing to show for their time here, not even a favourable reference.

Taken from:

Netskills, 2007, What is plagiarism? [online]. Available from: [Accessed 11 September 2018].

  1. First and foremost it is, of course, dishonest. The purchased item is not your own work. It is no measure of what you have, or have not, learnt and understood. You have joined the University to gain an education. By engaging in such dishonest practices you are undermining the whole notion of what it means to be an academic student.
  2. The people who write ‘readymade’ assignments are usually exploited by the organisations involved, and gain little payment for their work. The payment bears little or no resemblance to the amount of income the organisation gains from such work.
  3. The quality of ‘readymade’ assignments can be appalling. In investigations by the New York Times (Hansen 2004; McGrath 2006) and the BBC (Levinson 2005a, 2005b) readymade assignments were found to be of very variable quality. In some cases, purchased essays and other types of assignment are simply patched together from various articles of dubious quality that already exist on the web.
  4. There is really no such thing as a ‘readymade’ assignment. As you already know from doing this and other Academic writing skills modules, each assignment has a specific purpose and its own guidelines. An ‘off-the-peg’ document, even if well written, is very unlikely to meet the specific purpose and guidelines of the assignment you were set.
  5. Lastly, the marker of your purchased work will quickly realise that it is not your own work. It will not have been written in your style, for meeting the specific purpose and guidelines of the assignment you were set. If the marker uses Turnitin® or some other kind of plagiarism-detecting software, they are likely to find sources on the web from which your purchased work has been compiled. You will fail the assignment and perhaps your whole course.

Taken from section 5.4 of the Moodle course: How to avoid Plagiarism


Hansen, S., 2004. Dear plagiarists: you get what you pay for [online]. New York Times, August 22, 2004. Available from: [accessed 10 September 2018].

Levinson, H., 2005a. Internet essays prove poor buys [online]. BBC News, April 7, 2005. Available from: [accessed 19 September 2009].

Levinson, H., 2005b. Essay sales ‘belittle education’ [online]. BBC News, April 15, 2005. Available from: [accessed 19 September 2009].

McGrath, C., 2006. At $9.95 a page, you expected poetry? [online]. New York Times, September 10, 2006. Available from: [accessed 10 September 2018].

  • Remember that your tutors are very experienced and have read widely on the topic you are studying. They will certainly know if you have simply copied sections from texts on the recommended course reading list, or if you have copied directly from their lecture notes or handouts.
  • Remember that everybody has their own style of writing. It is very easy for your tutor to spot changes in style, which inevitably occur when you copy somebody else's work. Even if you try to disguise this by changing the odd word or phrase, it will still be obvious to your tutor.
  • Remember that your tutor will be marking the coursework for classes and/or year groups. They will be able to recognise similarities between submitted work. They will also be able to tell if you have copied another student's work.
  • Remember that your tutor is also aware of the many cheat sites which now offer to sell you essays. It is very likely that your tutors will have searched these sites for essays which might be available on your particular topic. If you do decide to risk failing your assignment by copying an essay from a cheat site, you should also remember that other students in your group may very well have bought the same essay.

Also, some tutors use technology to uncover plagiarism and there are many different ways by which they can do this. For example there are  pieces of software available that enable staff to conduct electronic comparisons of students’ work against a range of electronic sources  including web sites and essays from cheat sites.

Taken from:

University of Essex, 2014, Plagiarism and how to avoid it [online]. Available from: [Accessed 10 September 2018].

Detecting plagiarism is reactive, short term, time consuming and can have a negative effect on students. Deterring plagiarism is proactive, has lasting impact and should have a largely positive effect.

Deterring plagiarism:

  • Encourage originality - self reflection and individualised responses
  • Use unusual topics and formats e.g. website, brochure, project, poster
  • Ask for applied knowledge, applying theory X to event Y e.g. 'To what extent has Tony Blair increased the powers of the Prime Minister?' rather than 'What are the powers of the Prime Minister?'
  • Ensure students understand referencing and citation practices, especially for online resources
  • Assess process as well as outcomes
  • Discuss plagiarism with students
  • Demonstrate the poor quality of many plagiarised texts
  • Teach general study skills (include the Library staff)
  • Change assessment/essay topics every year
  • Insist on drafts of assignments in advance
  • Ensure secure submission and return of assignments
  • Reinforce with other assessment methods such as in-class essays, exams, discussions, vivas
  • Clarify how much collaboration is allowed in group work, be clear how marks will be allocated (group mark or individual mark?)
  • Set up regular plagiarism audits

Adapted from:

JISC, 2012, Plagiarism awareness [online]. Available from: [Accessed 10 September 2018].

Library Resources

the complete guide to referencing and avoiding plagiarism

The Complete Guide to Referencing and Avoiding Plagiarism

This edition continues to demystify the referencing process and provide essential guidance on making sure you are not committing plagiarism. It provides clear guidelines on why and when to reference as well as how to correctly cite from a huge range of sources.

cite them right

Cite Them Right Online

This online guide to referencing for students and authors provides detailed examples for all print and electronic sources, business, government, technical and legal publications, works of art and images.
We also have print copies available in the Library

the study skills handbook

The study skills handbook

This title introduces higher-level study skills and allows students to develop a deeper understanding of the learning process itself, encouraging a reflective and well-informed approach to study.