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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.]

Books in the Library

Library videos on plagiarism

Plagiarism: what it is

A short introduction video [3:52]

Plagiarism: how to avoid it

A more in depth video on how to avoid plagiarism [13:58]

Online tutorials

More information

Different types of plagiarism

  • 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

What's wrong with plagiarism?

  • 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].

Why you should avoid essay cheat sites

  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].

For academics: effective methods of deterring plagiarism

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].