One of the worst academic crimes is plagiarism. This is the presentation of another person’s work as if it were your own, without acknowledgement of where it has come from. It’s important not to plagiarise because not only is it considered a form of cheating, it is also intellectual theft. Imagine if you had written a book or a poem and someone else passed it off as their own work?
The Plagiarism Spectrum
There are different ways in which it is possible to plagiarise – and you may even be doing it without knowing. However, in academic terms it doesn’t make any difference whether it’s done deliberately or not: plagiarism is plagiarism. Most academic institutions – including DPG – have policies on plagiarism and the penalties are usually very severe and could lead to disqualification of your work. Make sure you are familiar with the plagiarism policy.
There is a whole spectrum of what is considered plagiarism, ranging from:
- Buying a paper from a research service or downloading it directly from the internet
- Handing in another participant’s work with or without their knowledge
- Copying a paper or some text from a source without proper acknowledgement (this can sometimes be due to poor editing or proof-reading)
- Cutting and pasting text from a website and changing a couple of words here and there
- Paraphrasing materials from a source text without appropriate documentation
However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use other people’s work at all. Indeed, there are some very good reasons why you should as careful referencing can support or validate your own thoughts on a topic and it shows that you’ve researched an issue thoroughly.
When you use other peoples’ words or ideas, diagrams, statistics, data tables, graphs etc, you must acknowledge them properly. By doing this, you are proving that you have read around your subject properly (and not just “googled” a keyword) and are familiar with the major theories and ideas.
Here are some suggestions to help you avoid plagiarism in your work:
- Learn to reference properly. Harvard Referencing is the accepted style for CIPD qualification programmes.
- Reference both direct quotes (the exact words reproduced from a source) and summaries and paraphrases (the words are yours but you are using the ideas or findings from another source)
- When note-taking, try to write your notes in your own words, rather than copying them directly from the text you’re reading (this is a more sophisticated technique in any case and helps you to show you really understand what you’re writing about rather than just repeating it parrot-fashion).
- When you are including direct quotations in your notes, write down the reference to it at the same time.
- Always include a full list of references with all pieces of academic work,
The following is sound advice from Scott Van Bramer:
“Only use someone else’s writing when you want to quote precisely what they wrote. If this is not your goal, USE YOUR OWN WORDS.
a) This avoids any ambiguity about who wrote it. After all, you do not want someone to accuse you of plagiarism.
b) You need to learn how to write in your own style. You may be influenced by authors that you find clear and easy to understand, but your writing needs to be YOUR writing. Mimicking someone else is not a productive exercise. You just learn to cut and paste.
c) An instructor who is reading or grading your work is interested in YOUR understanding of an idea. I am not interested in your ability to copy explanations from the textbook. I know that the author of the book understands it, which is why I picked the textbook. I need to know if YOU understand it.
d) Understanding and learning is more than just replaying something you have heard. Writing is a valuable exercise that tests your ability to explain a topic. I often think I understand something, until I try to write it out. This is an important part of learning.”
Van Bramer (1995)
Further information and resources
Visit the Deakin University’s Plagiarism Site and see how much you know about plagiarism. You’ll pick up some more tips on how to avoid plagiarism as well.
Alternatively, Leeds Univesity has an interactive tutorial on how to recognise and avoid plagiarism
Van Bramer, S.E. (1995), What is plagiarism? [online] Chester PA, USA: Widener University. http://science.widener.edu/svb/essay/plagiar.html [accessed 21/12/12].