Avoiding Plagiarism

Fair use of information created and published by other people involves using the core of their ideas as the raw materials for an original piece of work on the same topic and acknowledging their contribution in a bibliography.

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the unacceptable act of using someone else's words and ideas as if they were all your own work.

Some examples of plagiarism are:

  • Directly copying from an information resource or another student's work, with or without an entry for that resource in your bibliography.
  • Taking information from a resource and just changing a few words, with or without an entry for that resource in your bibliography.
  • Quoting, paraphrasing, summarising or using ideas from an information resource and not entering the details of that resource in your bibliography.
  • Using an internet or software-based language translator to translate complete sentences in a language assignment.

How to avoid plagiarism

Students are sometimes unsure how to use the information they find in books and other resources in a fair and honest way, so here are some simple ways to avoid plagiarism:

  • Think of information resources as providing the building blocks for a work you are going to create yourself.
  • Do not copy complete sentences and paragraphs from information resources into your assignment - even if you change a few words.
  • Make notes in an information file/scaffold that is divided into the sections of information required for the task. This way you are organising your notes as you make them. Summarise the information you read, so your notes are relevant and detailed enough to suit the requirements of the task. Create your own sentences and paragraphs from your notes to build your final report or essay.
  • Analyse the information you find and combine the main concepts from several resources into your own original sentences and paragraphs. This way you are giving your understanding and your interpretation of the information you have read.
  • Add examples to illustrate what you are saying and evidence to support the points you are making.
  • Use dictionaries to give you an understanding of uncommon terms - do not simply copy these terms into your work. 
  • If you need to copy text word for word then enclose it in quotation marks " " and reference the quote. Quote sparingly and usually only when the idea cannot be expressed more clearly than in the author's exact words.
  • Always include a bibliography with your assignments. Your bibliography should clearly show which resources you used in the preparation of your assignment.
  • Do not use online or software-based language translators to translate whole sentences in language assignments. Use a dictionary and do the translation yourself, from your knowledge of the language.

See the quick plagiarism checklist

Examples

Below are examples which show how information from a resource can be used incorrectly and correctly to create a paragraph in an assignment:

Example of plagiarism:

Passage from the World Book Encyclopedia on Michael FaradayMichael Faraday (1791- 1867), one of the greatest English chemists and physicists, discovered the principle of electromagnetic induction in 1831. He found that moving a magnet through a coil of copper wire caused an electric current to flow in the wire. The electric generator and the electric motor are based on this principle.
Sentences in an
assignment
Michael Faraday lived from 1791- 1867 and was a famous English chemist and physicist. Faraday discovered the principle of electromagnetic induction in 1831. He found that moving a magnet through a coil of copper wire made an electric current to flow in the wire. The electric generator and the electric motor work on this principle.


The problem here is the direct copying from the World Book Encyclopedia, with a few words changed. No attempt has been made to analyse the information, combine information from different resources and present it in the student's own words. The student has done little work to produce the sentences in the assignment.

Example of correct procedure that avoids plagiarism:

Passage from the World Book Encyclopedia on Michael FaradayMichael Faraday (1791- 1867), one of the greatest English chemists and physicists, discovered the principle of electromagnetic induction in 1831. He found that moving a magnet through a coil of copper wire caused an electric current to flow in the wire. The electric generator and the electric motor are based on this principle.
Definition from the
Dictionary of Science
Electromagnetic induction - one body with electric/magnetic properties produces a similar effect in another body without touching it
NotesMichael Faraday 1791-1867
English chemist/physicist - principle of electromagnetic induction - one body passes electric/magnetic properties to another without contact
Moving magnet through coil of copper wire - electricity flows through wire - electric generator/motor based on this principle
Sentences in an
assignment
Michael Faraday was the 19th Century English scientist who discovered the principle of electromagnetic induction. This principle relates to the ability of one body with electric or magnetic properties to produce similar effects in another body without physical contact. Faraday's discovery was very important to industry and society as it led to the design of electric generators and motors.


The student has made notes, has done some analysis of them and has defined the key term 'electromagnetic induction'. All the important information has been combined into sentences using the student's own words. The student has done a substantial amount of work in producing the sentences in the assignment.

Remember, writing assignments is about combining relevant information that you find in a number of resources into your own words and sentences - so that you create something individual and original that really responds to the set task. It is not about just changing the words that other people have written.

Terms that students should know

Analyse - to break information down into its key components in order to understand it and to interpret its relevance to the set topic.

Bibliography - a correctly written list of all the works consulted in preparation for writing an assignment.

Cite - to refer to an author or to a specific work that you have used in your assignment.

Evidence - Facts that support your argument.

Paraphrase - to examine information and put it into your own words.

Quote/quotation - an author's phrases copied exactly, word for word.

Reference - to acknowledge the source of an idea at that point in the text of an assignment where the idea is introduced.

Reference list - a bibliography that includes only those works that are referred to in the text of an assignment.

Scaffold - a file you create to store and organise your notes that clearly shows each section of the task. GoogleDocs is a great tool for this.

Summarise - to write down just the key parts of information.

Synthesise - to create something new from various parts.

 

 

 

 

Tweet This