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Plagiarism is a serious academic offence but more often than not it results from misunderstanding rather than a deliberate intention to cheat. Many students simply do not understand what plagiarism is. Although confusion is understandable, especially at the beginning of your study, ignorance will not be accepted as an excuse or as a defence against an accusation of plagiarism. You must therefore make sure that you understand what plagiarism is and how you can avoid it. 

[From: Plagiarism at the University of Essex]

You might also like to try the Epigeum online interactive tutorial: "Plagiarism and how to avoid it"

Unless otherwise stated, the ideas and suggestions presented below are courtesy  of Netskills, University of Newcastle and used with permission. See http://materials.netskills.ac.uk/

What is plagiarism?...

The Oxford English Dictionary says:

plagiarize (also plagiarise) 
verb. take (the work or an idea of someone else) and pass it off as one's own.

[Concise Oxford Dictionary. Ed. Judy Pearsall. Oxford University Press, 2001. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Bath University. 23 June 2004 http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t23.e42866]

You may be found guilty of plagiarism if:

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

Different types of plagiarism

What's wrong with plagiarism?

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.

Why you should avoid essay cheat sites

See Authorship and Plagiarism: Cheat Sites (University of Essex) for information about the pitfalls of using essay cheat sites on the Internet.

Detecting plagiarism: how your tutor will be able to tell if you have plagiarised

[From: Plagiarism at the University of Essex: How will it be detected?]

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.

Test yourself

There are a number of online plagiarism tests available to help you understand and avoid plagiarism in your work:

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:

Useful links:

Further reading

Austin, M. and Brown, L. (1999) Internet Plagiarism: developing strategies to curb student academic dishonesty. The Internet and Higher Education 2(1), p21-33

Carroll, J. (2002) A Handbook for deterring plagiarism in higher education, Oxford: Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development.

Furedi, F. (2001) Cheater's Charter. Times Higher Education Supplement, 8th June 2001

Moon, J. (1999) How to stop students from cheating, Times Higher Education Supplement, 3rd September 1999


Harris, R. (2002) Anti-plagiarism strategies for research papers. Virtual Salt. Available at: http://www.virtualsalt.com/antiplag.htm [Accessed 23rd June 2004]
Discusses some pedagogic approaches to deterring plagiarism

Larkham, P. (2003) Exploring and dealing with plagiarism: traditional approaches. Available at: http://www.jiscpas.ac.uk/apppage.cgi?USERPAGE=7492 Full report available at  http://www.jiscpas.ac.uk/images/bin/larkham_plagiarism_text.doc [Accessed 23rd June 2004]

Levin, P. (2003) Beat the Witch-hunt!, Peter Levin's Guide to Avoiding and Rebutting Accusations of Plagiarism for Conscientious Students. Available at: http://student-friendly-guides.com/wp-content/uploads/Beat-the-Witch-hunt.pdf [Accessed 11th April 2012]