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Succeeding in postgraduate study
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4.1 What does plagiarism look like?

Plagiarism may range from accidental to intentional. Accidental plagiarism could occur through poor note-taking skills, for example by copying and pasting some useful material from a web page and forgetting to re-write it using your own words, or to add a citation and reference. Using ‘paper mills’, or paid-for essay sites, would be an example of intentional or deliberate plagiarism. There are some skills and techniques you can learn to ensure that you do not inadvertently commit plagiarism in your academic work. Activity 6 will allow you to check your understanding of plagiarism.

Activity 6 Understanding plagiarism

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes


A. Copying an assignment question from your course materials, putting it on an online forum and then using a suggested answer in your own work.


B. Copying and pasting text from an article or a web page without acknowledgement.


C. Putting a paragraph in your own words, with changes to the language and order of the ideas.


D. Copying a paragraph from an article and changing a few words.


E. Copying a few sentences of an original article and putting them in a different order.


F. Using a diagram from a textbook or journal article, acknowledging the source in the legend and including the reference in the bibliography.


G. Copying a few sentences and phrases from different sources and changing some words.


H. Cutting and pasting a sentence and placing it in quotation marks with a citation.

The correct answers are a, b, c, d, e and g.


F and H would not be considered to be ‘plagiarism’, as the sources have been cited and material used appropriately. The others, however, constitute plagiarism to varying extents, some more intentional than others. These are explained in more detail here:

  • A.Yes, this is plagiarism, and also a breach of copyright in publishing course content elsewhere without permission.
  • B.Yes, this is plagiarism. It is possible to inadvertently forget to note the source of information at the time of writing, or to forget to acknowledge sources when writing. Unintentional plagiarism can be avoided by developing good academic practice and appropriate reference management and note-taking skills.
  • C.Yes, although this may not be intentional plagiarism as an attempt has been made to put the work into your own words, it still needs a citation and reference as the ideas belong to someone else.
  • D.Yes, this is plagiarism, and an example of ‘poor paraphrasing’. There is no acknowledgement of the original author.
  • E.Yes, this would be another example of ‘poor paraphrasing’, again without acknowledgement of the original source, and considered as plagiarism.
  • F.No, this is not plagiarism as the source has been acknowledged (cited), and appropriately referenced, but you should still ensure that its use (e.g. in your assignment) is covered by ‘fair dealing’ exception and does not infringe copyright.
  • G.Yes, this is an example of plagiarism. Although you are encouraged to draw on a number of sources, these should always be acknowledged properly.
  • H.No, this is not plagiarism as the source has been cited appropriately using quotation marks. However, you should avoid relying on use of extensive quotes.