4 Using and communicating information responsibly
Your postgraduate studies will expect you to demonstrate academic integrity and develop good academic practice at an advanced level. Good academic practice includes developing your writing skills and acknowledging your sources. This also means being able to demonstrate your ability to use and communicate information responsibly, and to avoid plagiarism. ‘Plagiarism’ can be defined as ‘passing off someone else’s work as your own without acknowledging the source’. If it is not clear from your work when and where you have used the work of others, then this could be classed as plagiarism and may have serious consequences (plagiarism is considered academic misconduct and carries disciplinary penalties).
For you as the student, acknowledging your sources of information shows:
- the reading and research you have undertaken
- that you are giving credit to the ideas and work of others
- that you know how to cite and reference.
For the reader of your work, it shows:
- the original sources used, which can be followed up if wished
- which are your own words and ideas and which are those of others
- that you are reading the literature expected to give you a deeper understanding of the subject at postgraduate level.
Universities now use specialised software (for example, The Open University uses Turnitin and CopyCatch) that helps them detect when an assignment contains information that has been copied from somewhere else without acknowledgement. You can avoid plagiarism by keeping track of the information you find, acknowledging it in your writing using appropriate citation and accurate referencing (see Session 5), developing note-taking skills and by writing using your own words. We will take a brief look at these latter skills shortly. First, you should check that you are aware of what constitutes plagiarism.