Little Book of Plagiarism

Little Book of Plagiarism
What it is and how to avoid it
This short booklet is designed to help students to
understand more fully what plagiarism is,
and suggests strategies for avoiding it.
It is important that this document is read in
conjunction with referencing guidelines provided by
2nd edition, July 2010
What is plagiarism?
Why might plagiarism occur?
Positive Reasons for not Plagiarising
Plagiarism in Practice – What is it?
Plagiarism – How do I avoid it? A guide to good practice
What else do I need to know?
Template for recording referencing information
The latest version of this publication is freely available to University of Stirling
staff and students on the University‟s website:
Everyone in education knows that plagiarism is something to be avoided, but not
everyone is sure precisely what it is. This short booklet is designed to help you to
understand more fully what plagiarism is, and equally important, how you can
develop practices to avoid it.
Intentional, or accidental, plagiarism is perceived as a specific form of cheating which
usually occurs when a student is working independently on an assignment (e.g.
essays, reports, presentations or dissertations). The University of Stirling uses the
following definition of plagiarism –
“To plagiarise is to represent as one‟s own the intellectual property of another.”
This means taking other people‟s work (intellectual property) and incorporating it into your own work
without acknowledging the original source of your information or ideas. Examples of other people‟s
„work‟ can include anything taken from Internet sources, the spoken word, graphics, data and
written text.
Examples of plagiarism include:
 the inclusion in your work of extracts from another person‟s work without the use of
quotation marks and/or acknowledgement of the original source(s);
 the summarising of another person‟s work without acknowledgement;
 the substantial use of the ideas of another person without acknowledgement;
 copying the work or ideas of another student with or without that student‟s knowledge or
The key element of a submitted assignment is that it should be your own work
entirely with all use of any resources appropriately acknowledged. For a group
project, this would mean that the work should only be produced by members of the
agreed group. Many modules now require that you sign a declaration on an
assignment cover sheet. Here is an example:
“Work which is submitted for assessment must be your own work. All students should note that the
University has a formal policy on plagiarism which can be found at
Please complete this statement:
This assignment was prepared by ……………….., a student on module ………….. at the University of
Stirling. This is entirely my own individual work, all resources have been acknowledged and it has not
been submitted previously for any other academic award.
Student signature: ………………………… Date: ………………………………….”
There are many reasons why students plagiarise, for example:
 When a student is not fully aware of what plagiarism is;
 When a student does not fully understand the conventions required in
academic writing;
 It can be a panic response to poor time management when an essay deadline
is looming:
 If a student feels a desperate need not to be seen as a failure and so copies
to try to ensure „success‟;
 It can be a response to different academic traditions;
 It can be a response to information overload and the ease with which text can
be cut and pasted from the other electronic documents or pages on the
 It can be an attempt not to displease a tutor;
 The student may copy out text word for word during note-taking and then
forget to reword (paraphrase) the text for the assignment.
Sometimes, of course, plagiarism is a determined and deliberate attempt to gain the credit for the
module without doing the work.
If plagiarism is deemed to have taken place, the reasons for why it has happened
are not taken into consideration. Plagiarism is always perceived as cheating and is
dealt with through University procedures. It is seen as not only cheating the
University, but also cheating other students. However, there are more reasons than
the negative ones (cheating others, unfairness, and possibly discovery and
disciplinary action) for not plagiarising.
1. Pride in Your Work
Students should be able to take pride in their work and in the achievements they
have attained. There is considerable satisfaction in knowing that you are
developing your writing skills, the work you have submitted is your own, all
resources are appropriately acknowledged, and the marks obtained reflect your
own effort and abilities.
2. Learning
It will not be possible to learn properly if you are not completing the required
course work properly. For example, if you are required to write an essay or
literature review, you will not just learn about the subject, you will also be
developing a whole range of abilities such as literature searching, time
management, organisation, evaluation, developing coherent arguments,
referencing and academic writing. It is much more difficult to develop these
aspects of academic study without practising them and getting tutor feedback.
Completing your assignments provides you with an important opportunity to learn
about your discipline area and communicate your understanding to others.
3. Real Level of Attainment
It is possible (although unlikely) that someone might plagiarise widely and not be
discovered throughout their University career. However, the discovery that their
apparent attainment does not match their real abilities may then become obvious
when they find a job. It is not worth the risk and worry this could cause.
4. UK Academic Traditions
It is important to recognise that plagiarism, as described here, is what is
understood by the term in UK Academic Institutions. Rules and traditions which
may apply anywhere else are not relevant in the context of UK Higher Education.
You should check the details of the next section carefully to ensure that you are fully
aware of what constitutes plagiarism at the University of Stirling. If you are found to
have plagiarised you may not be awarded credit or a grade for your assignment or
module. Plagiarism in your Honours dissertation or project could mean that you don‟t
get your degree. Plagiarism takes many forms. Some of the more common forms are
identified here.
1. Copying from a single source
This is where the student uses one of the following as the basis for the whole, or a
substantial part, of the assignment:
 published or unpublished books, articles or reports,
 the Internet,
 TV programme, radio programme or newspaper article,
 an essay from an essay bank,
 a piece of work previously submitted by another student,
 copying from a text which is about to be submitted for the same assignment
(see also „collusion‟ below)
Note that this list is comprised of both published and unpublished sources.
Plagiarism is not copying just from published sources. It can also arise from the
copying of unpublished sources like other people‟s essays.
You could be accused of plagiarism if substantial copying has taken place and the
majority of the words, arrangement of material and ideas are exactly as in the
original source but this has not been acknowledged. Without acknowledgement of
the original source, the tutor would not know where the information came from.
Even when an acknowledgment is included you would still require quotation marks
to indicate which the original words were. Without quotation marks you could be
accused of plagiarism as tutors would not know which words came directly from
the source and which words were written by the student. This kind of plagiarism is
increasingly detectable with modern software such as „Turnitin‟ and when the
copying is substantial, and without appropriate acknowledgment, it is viewed
Common Assumptions
If a book has been written by the lecturer then they would expect to find their work
repeated in the assignment. - No, lecturers would expect several sources to be read
and used, and would not be flattered to find their own work simply copied out.
The ideas and information came from a basic textbook and therefore do not require
referencing. – No, all sources of information used require acknowledgement.
As long as the book or article is cited in the reference list or bibliography it’s OK. No, it is not enough to have a final or general list of resources. It has to be clear,
within the body of the text, where information or ideas have come from and original
wording has to be indicated through the use of quotation marks. An accurate
reference list also has to be provided.
2. Copying from several sources
This is similar to the above, except that more than one source is used. A student
obtains (say) 4 sources of information, and copies a sentence or group of
sentences from A, then one from B, one from C and one from D and so on.
The sources used might well have been cited in the final reference list or
bibliography, the essay might answer the question set and the organisation of the
material may well be the student‟s own. However, this could still be considered to
be plagiarism. Why? The reason is that although the structure and composition is
the student‟s own work, the words are not. Rules of academic writing require that
whenever direct quotations (the actual words) are copied from a source, this
should be indicated by the use of quotation marks and appropriate
If no quotation marks are included within the text, the work is being dishonest
about who actually wrote what. As we will see later, the solution is not just to add
quotation marks to each of the sections used because all this does is provide a
long list of quotations and you are unlikely to gain a good grade. In such a case,
the student‟s only contribution is cutting and pasting, which is not what the
assignment was designed to assess, and there is no demonstration by the student
of the required skills of analysis, interpretation, judgment or evaluation.
Common Assumptions
The original sources put it better than anybody else could so it’s OK. - No, you are
expected to use the sources constructively, demonstrate that you have understood
them and have been able to use them effectively in the assignment. You need to use
the sources in a way that demonstrates your understanding of the texts.
You can copy from several sources as long as you have quotation marks and a
reference list. - No, you are encouraged to use a variety of sources but you should
not be copying extensively or directly from them. You should try and limit the use of
quotations* so that your essay does not become a „patchwork‟ of other people‟s
words or ideas. Any direct quotations you do decide to use should be within quotation
marks and referenced correctly.
*Check departmental guidelines as this will vary depending on the subject area and assignment set.
3. Paraphrasing
Paraphrasing is re-writing someone else‟s views or ideas into your own words. To
a certain extent any essay or assignment which relies on reading and analyzing a
series of texts will contain a significant amount of paraphrasing. However, even if
you paraphrase somebody else‟s work, you will still need to acknowledge the
source of ideas or evidence upon which your own ideas are based. Therefore in
this case remember to ensure that:
 You do not rely on only one source of material,
 You acknowledge all sources used,
 You use quotation marks to indicate a direct quotation,
 You take care when taking notes to remember what is copied from a text and
what is in your own words.
Common Assumptions
A. Just changing everything into your own words is enough. - If all you have done is
summarised someone else‟s ideas then you have still copied because you have made it
appear as if the ideas, arrangement of material etc. were your own.
B. It is OK to paraphrase everything as long as all sources are cited in the reference list or
bibliography. - Even when you paraphrase somebody else‟s work, it still needs to be
acknowledged within the assignment. To simply summarise the work of others and not
acknowledge this within the text (whether or not the works are in the reference list or
bibliography) is still trying to pass someone else‟s work off as your own.
4. Collusion
This can occur when students work together, and it is very important to distinguish
when this is required, and when it has to end. Some assignments require students
to work together as part of a group project. Where the group as a whole gets the
mark then it is joint work throughout and the group co-operation is part of what is
being assessed.
However, some group projects require students to work together at the planning
stage, but then to submit individual assignments. Here the co-operation has to
end at the point where you begin to compile your own individual submission,
which must be your own work from this stage onwards. Acknowledgement should
be made to the contribution or efforts of the other members of the group when this
is drawn upon.
A grey area is when students discuss their work together. A line needs to be
drawn between legitimate discussion of the current assignment with student
colleagues and collusion. The important thing to remember is that whilst general
discussion of the issues involved, or approaches to be taken, is acceptable, the
final submission must be your own individual effort. In a case where two or more
students submit similar or identical work and culpability cannot be established, any
penalties for plagiarism will be applied equally to both students. For more details
on penalties see:
The following guidelines will help you to avoid plagiarism. However, you have to be
aware that different disciplines have their own conventions and departments produce
their own guidelines to referencing and avoiding plagiarism. Make sure you refer to
your departmental guidelines and if in doubt, ask a tutor or lecturer.
1. Use of Quotations
Remember that if you use the exact words from your source these should appear
in quotation marks (or for longer quotations be indented) and be fully referenced
as required by your department. Make sure it is clear where the quotation starts
and finishes. As usual all details of the source should be included within the
reference list or bibliography.
The number of quotations that is acceptable in an assignment will vary depending
on the discipline and the assignment task. For example, in an English assignment,
a substantial number of quotations may be required to illustrate or support a
particular argument. However, in the Natural Sciences it is less likely you would
require numerous quotations to evidence your argument. Unless you have been
advised otherwise, try to use quotations sparingly. Use them only when the author
has expressed something so well and so succinctly that you feel that the words
cannot be bettered. If you do this you will probably reduce the number of your
quotations and be more aware of when you are quoting.
It is also important to minimise the number of „secondary quotations‟. This is
where you lift a quotation from a source without studying the original piece of
work. To fully understand a quotation within another piece of work, it is often
necessary to go to the original sources and read the work in context.
2. Making Notes
During note taking it is possible that you adopt the language of your source and it
is tempting to write out the notes word-for word to try and save some time. When
you come to write your assignment it can then be difficult to remember which
notes are in your own words and which have been copied directly from your
sources. One way to avoid this is to not take notes in the first instance. Instead
read the text first, consider what the author has said and then summarise the work
in your own words. If you do this you will tend to copy less of the text and also test
your understanding of the work. Another strategy is to write any notes in your own
words in one colour pen and any direct quotations in another. When you go back
to your notes to write your assignment it will be clear what is your work and what
has been taken direct from somebody else‟s work.
When you are taking notes from other sources, remember to systematically record
all the necessary details about the source ready to prepare your final reference
list. A template for recording this information is included at the end of this booklet.
This will make collating your final reference list a much easier task.
3. Paraphrasing
If you rewrite the author‟s words into your own words, remember that you still have
to attribute the broad ideas or content to the author in question. You will probably
carry over some of their language, but as long as you are making it clear which
sources you are using, and not attempting to pass it off as your own work then this
should not arouse suspicion of plagiarism.
The more sources you look at, the less likely it is that you will seem to be
repeating without acknowledgement the content of one of them. If you take care
when you are taking notes (see above) you will also reduce the chance of
unacknowledged paraphrasing.
4. Cite all sources used
You should cite all the sources you have used. This includes any web sources
used, and any newspaper articles, reports, and TV or radio programmes referred
to. If they have contributed to the completion of your assignment they should be
listed along with the printed books and articles. If you only cite some sources and
forget others, it could be perceived as an attempt to prevent the lecturer
comparing your assignment text with some of the actual texts used. If there is
considerable similarity (either direct copying or paraphrasing) and you have not
cited the work in question, then this could be considered as a case of plagiarism.
For guidelines on how to cite appropriately, please refer to your departmental
Check your departmental or assessment guidelines to see if you are required to
produce a reference list or a bibliography (see glossary). It is not good practice to
pad out a bibliography or reference list with lots of titles which you have not read
and in some cases you could lose marks for this. A short list of well-used sources
is much better than a long list of sources which you have never looked at; the
number of references expected within an assignment varies depending on the
discipline area, the year of study and the assignment set.
5. How do I know when to include a reference in my work?
When you are writing an essay or completing a similar kind of assignment, it is not
always necessary to include a reference to everything you say. If that were so,
your work would be more references than substance. When you give a reference
is partly a matter of judgment, and conventions will vary from one discipline to
This example from an English history assignment gives a good indication of when
you would and would not give a source reference. For example:
The Battle of Hastings was fought in the south of England in 1066…
Assuming this was not a direct quotation, it would not need a reference to indicate
where you obtained the information. This is because it is a very well known fact
and is not contentious.
However, if you then wish to discuss the various opinions of historians on the
conduct and outcome of that battle, then you would need to reference the
sources. This fictitious example illustrates the use of three sources which have
been paraphrased by the student:
Spring considers that the Norman tactics were misguided but ultimately
successful.1 In contrast, Summer has long argued that it was only the
exhaustion of the Anglo-Saxon forces which permitted the Norman victory.2
You might then continue;
A more modern view has recently been expressed by Winter who regards
both these views as too simplistic. This essay will consider this idea in more
detail here.3
Note here, the way that you have moved from simply stating what scholars might
think about this battle, to how you are going to consider and deal with their views.
The acknowledgment of the original sources of information would (in this case as
it is a history assignment) go in as a footnote or endnote; this is why there are
superscript numbers included within the text. In other departments, you would
acknowledge these sources of the information differently. It is your responsibility
to check your departmental guidelines.
6. Your Lecturer‟s Views
It is a common assumption that your lecturer wants you to repeat his or her views
in your assignment, especially if these have been published in a book or article.
Try to remember that this is not the case. All lecturers want you to use the
sources suggested in the reading list (including their own if relevant), but they
want you to use them constructively to answer the question, or complete the
assignment. They do not want you simply to repeat the views contained in their
own works.
7. The Textbook
If a lecturer recommends a textbook, then obviously he or she wants you to read
it. But, as above, they do not want you to copy it out when completing an
assignment. Once again, the idea is to use the information constructively. You
want to show that you have understood the issues and concepts involved, but in
order to show that you have understood them, there has to be clear input from
you. This cannot be shown if you simply copy out the text from the textbook,
however good this is. It is also the case that if you use basic textbooks, you still
need to follow the referencing conventions.
8. Diagrams, graphs, tables
Any graphs, tables, data or diagrams that are not the result of your own work, also
need to be fully acknowledged. It is usual to include a title and to reference the
source of the information or graphic in the usual way.
9. Collusion in individual assignments.
Collusion occurs when students work together on an assignment that should be
an individual piece of work.
To avoid suspicion of collusion you are advised to do the following:
 have any discussions and sharing of ideas before you start completing the
 do not ask to look at anyone else‟s assignment and do not show yours to
anyone else if they ask to see it;
 remember that if sequence, style and content are very similar between two
pieces of work it will lead the lecturer to wonder whether there has been
10. Copying from the Web or purchasing essays
There is only one simple piece of advice here – do not do this. You may know
some fellow student who has done so and “got away with it”. However, remember,
that such a student may not have similar “success” next time, and that even if he
or she has been successful in passing off work which is not their own, it does not
mean that you will be. The University of Stirling‟s penalties for such activities, at
both undergraduate and postgraduate level, are explained under
11.Check which referencing system your department uses
It is important to note that different disciplines, departments and different
publications very often have a preferred system for referencing. The common
referencing systems are the Harvard system, the Numeric system (both described
on the University of Stirling Library Web site under „Research‟ and the APA referencing
system. Some departments use modified versions of these. Remember it is your
responsibility to check which system is appropriate for the assessment you are
completing. Please check your student handbooks or ask a tutor for further
1. Electronic „Detection‟ Software
There are now various and increasingly sophisticated electronic aids to assist
lecturers who may be in doubt about the originality of work submitted. These
include programmes which look at linguistic similarities and others which can
identify when essays have been bought from websites. They can only be used on
assignments which are submitted electronically and will only flag up potential
plagiarism against other electronic resources.
The electronic „detection‟ software „Turnitin‟ is in use at the University of Stirling. It is used in a
variety of ways by different departments. On some modules all assignments are automatically
checked, on other modules only a selection of assignments are checked. Some departments are
allowing students access to the software to check their own assignment. Your departmental
student handbook will say if, and how, the department is using this software.
2. Penalties
Regrettably, plagiarism does sometimes occur. The University has penalties for
students who plagiarise and it does use them. The relevant regulations and
procedures are used to investigate the suspicion of plagiarism and if there is
evidence that plagiarism has taken place, various penalties are imposed
depending on the severity of the case. Information on the relevant regulations
and penalties are available through the student portal.
 For undergraduates and postgraduates:
3. Where to go for advice
 Departments
Your departmental student handbook/s should give you guidelines on how to
avoid plagiarism and which referencing system to use. If you have further
questions or something specific to ask, you could also approach your lecturer,
tutor, module co-ordinator or advisor of studies. Some students will also have a
peer-mentor whom they could ask.
 The Library
The library staff have produced a leaflet called „Guide to Citing References‟. An
excellent introduction to the different referencing systems is available on the
Library web site under – Doing Research – Writing References.
 University of Stirling Students‟ Union
USSU provides peer advice on academic issues for all students at Stirling and
can assist with appeals where needed. If you have any questions that you
don‟t want to take to your department or the University, USSU can help. For
more information on the services that USSU offer call 01786 467166, log onto or see your student officers Monday to Friday, 9-5 in the
Office just past Studio.
 Student Learning Services (SLS)
Student Learning Services provide additional academic advice for undergraduate
and taught postgraduate students at the University of Stirling. It provides
„Learning Strategies‟ modules, workshops and one-to-one tutorials on issues
such as referencing, essay writing and avoiding plagiarism. To find out more, log
on to your student portal, go to „Departments‟ where Student Learning Services
is listed under „S‟. You can also check out the Student Learning Services
WebCT site or e-mail [email protected]
We hope that this short booklet has assisted you in identifying how you could avoid
the risk of plagiarism. We have shown how students may plagiarise without being
fully aware that they are doing so and have identified some strategies to help you
avoid plagiarism. It takes time and practice to fully develop your academic writing but
in the meantime you need to do all you can to avoid plagiarism.
If you are in doubt, look again at the example declaration at the start of the booklet. If
you think you have not quite met the requirements of this kind of declaration – look at
your work again before you submit it, and make sure that it is wholly your own work
and all sources have been fully acknowledged. If you are still concerned – ask your
tutor before you submit the assignment. If you follow this advice and ask for guidance
when you need it, you should be able to produce work that conforms to academic
conventions and reflects the time and effort you put in.
Here are some key terms which you may see in student handbooks.
Citing - Formally acknowledging within your writing, the source or sources from which you
obtained the information. An example is „Spring considers that the Norman tactics were
misguided but ultimately successful1 while Summer has long argued that it was only the
exhaustion of the Anglo-Saxon forces which permitted the Norman victory2.‟
Citation - This is the act of quoting. It means the passage or words which you have
directly taken from a source and reproduced in your text. The original source of the
quotation should always be given with it.
Reference - This is the detailed description of the source from which you have obtained a
specific piece of information. So, in the fictitious example above, you might list the details
of the work as:
1 - Allan Spring, The Norman Conquest: new approaches, 134-168 (Oxford, 1998).
The exact format would depend on the referencing system you were using. The
format shown above is used in the History Department. Other departments use very
different formats. Please refer to your departmental guidelines.
Reference List – This is a list of all the sources that are explicitly referred to within the
assignment. It does not include additional background reading which may have informed
your work but which was not used explicitly within the assignment.
Bibliography - This is a list of all the sources which you have used to complete the
assignment. A bibliography usually includes items that you have read but which you did
not directly refer to within the text.
The terms „bibliography‟ and „reference list‟ are often used interchangeably. Check your
departmental guidelines to clarify what is expected of you.
Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained within this booklet is correct
at the time of publication. The booklet is not intended to be relied upon as the sole source of material and it
is the student‟s responsibility to check the most up to date guidelines provided in their departmental student
This booklet has been adapted from Leeds Metropolitan University‟s Little Book of Plagiarism for student use
at the University of Stirling. If you have any feedback please contact either Students Union or Student
Learning Services.
This template can be used to remind you of the information you may require when
you collate your final reference list. As you are researching for your assignment,
write down the details of all the sources you are using. Remember that your final
reference list has to be in the format requested by your department.
Book or Extract from Book
Book Title
Year of Publication
Place of Publication
Library Number
Extract (information above plus)
Chapter Number & Title
Chapter author (If different from book)
Page numbers
Journal Article
Article Title
Journal Title
Article page numbers
Electronic Media/World Wide Web
Article/Report Title
Date You Accessed Site (Day, Month, Year)
URL: http:
Penalties for Plagiarism & Academic Misconduct
The University takes the view that the penalty should be appropriate to the scale of
the offence.
The Code of Student Discipline (Ordinance 2 of the University of Stirling Calendar),
available at, outlines the broad area of student discipline covering both academic
and non-academic misconduct.
Cases which relate to plagiarism, examinations and class tests are covered by the
Code of Practice for the Assessment and Examination of Students‟ Work for Taught
Programmes, available at
There is a „penalty points‟ scheme now operation for plagiarism and academic
misconduct offences relating to assessment and examination.
The scheme has three classes of offence as shown in table 1. Class 1 – for minor
offences or where a misunderstanding about what was allowed and what was not,
Class 2 – where the offence is major or where collusion was involved, and Class 3 –
gross, very serious academic misconduct. The penalty points awarded reflect
increasing seriousness of the offence.
Classification Definition/Examples
Minor plagiarism
Use of unfair means that makes only a minor
contribution/advantage due to misunderstanding
Major plagiarism
Use of unfair means that would allow the student to gain a
major advantage
Using work that is not your own, i.e. bought/borrowed
Circumventing Turnitln
Use of unfair means that would allow the student to gain a
gross advantage i.e. going to toilet to read notes, using
technology to source answers during an exam/class test
Table 1 – Classification of Offence and Penalty Points
As you accrue more penalty points so the „punishment‟ increases in severity. These
penalty points stay on your record for the duration of your programme. They range
from a verbal warning to being required to withdraw from your programme of study as
shown in Table 2.
No change to grade but student is strongly advised and encouraged to
undertake the educational process to ensure they understand what
plagiarism/exam/class test regulations are.
Downgrade assignment/examination/class test by one class i.e. 3A to 4A
with no option to resubmit or resit.
Fail module, grade of 5C
Fail module, grade if 5C (PL) and unable to graduate with Honours or MSc
Required to withdraw from programme
Table 2 – Penalty Points Accumulation Scheme (from
Hopefully, you will never get involved in academic misconduct. If you have any
doubts then either talk to the module co-ordinator or a someone in Student Learning
Services (email [email protected]).
July 2010
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