Fighting challenges when writing an essay: plagiarism

What is plagiarism?

The general reaction is that plagiarism means using somebody else’s work and passing it off as your own. The concept of plagiarism is broader than this.

If you produce a research document or essay and you refer to or use part of a past piece of your work without citing it, you have actually plagiarised your own work. It may seem that ‘borrowing’ another author’s ideas, is not too serious, but actually their work is their intellectual property and it is an offence to steal it. (copyright laws). It is regarded as an act of fraud. (check out the definition of plagiarism in Merriam-Webster online dictionary).

What is considered plagiarism?

  • Using someone else’s work, not giving them any credit for their work and putting your name to it.
  • Not citing your sources or ideas and quoting another author work without using quotation marks.
  • Copying a large chunk of someone else’s work even if you give them credit for the work. One of the worst cases is plagiarism, known was by a student who copied out a complete chapter of a text book for an essay, and tried to pass it off as her own work! It did not need to go through copyscape as the tutor had picked up on the fraud as soon as the paper was being marked.

How to avoid plagiarism

  • When reading documents and books that may form part of your discussion or argument in your essay, make meticulous notes of where the ideas and quotes you intend to use have come from. (noting all the information needed for referencing). By doing this you will have all the information you need to ready to produce you bibliography.
  • Be reassured that it is OK to use citations to support development of your ideas and theories but make sure that you acknowledge where you found that supporting statement.
  • When reading someone else’s work, you may feel that they have expressed the idea or theory so succinctly that it is impossible to improve or change the wording in any way. That is partly true - so if you cannot think or a way of expressing the idea without using another author’s script - cite their work, give them the credit. If you really feel that you cannot find your own words to express the idea - do you really understand the concept /idea?
  • Check with your tutor as to which referencing and citation style to use .

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