Massey University's Student Academic Integrity Policy (AB10/110) defines plagiarism as:
- Copying of sentences, paragraphs, computer files, research data, creative products that are the works of other persons, without appropriate acknowledgement.
- Closely paraphrasing sentences, paragraphs or themes without appropriate acknowledgement.
- Submitting one's own previously assessed or published work for assessment or publication elsewhere, without appropriate acknowledgement and/or approval.
- Substituting material obtained from internet-based essay depositories (paper mills) or similar sources.
- Submission of work overly reliant on model answers or sample solutions provided in the course materials.
In the context of an assignment, plagiarism occurs when information from another source is used without being credited correctly. This source can be a book, a journal article, an image, or a website: anything that was written, designed, or created by someone else.
There are several common mistakes that can lead to plagiarism:
- Copying a series of words without telling the reader where those words came from
- Copying a series of words without putting them inside quotation marks
- Paraphrasing (rephrasing) another source, but only changing a few words
- Using the facts or ideas from another source without telling the reader where they came from
- Copying images, in whole or part, without including captions or telling the reader where they came from
Plagiarism fits under the broader category of Academic Integrity (AI).
There can be significant academic penalties for plagiarising in an assignment. Because of this, many new students are understandably anxious about accidentally plagiarising.
Plagiarism is easy to avoid, by applying two simple rules:
- If you copy more than about three consecutive words from a source, put the words in quotation marks
- If you use any words, ideas, opinions, information, or images from a source, cite and reference the source
Examples of plagiarism
The following sentences are taken from Lazar (2006, p. 81):
There are many advantages to using electronic surveys. It's possible that targeted users will respond more quickly to electronic surveys than to paper surveys (because they do not have to worry about finding a stamp and a mailbox).
Using the wording of a source without including quotation marks or a citation is plagiarism:
Surveys can be conducted in person, by post, or electronically. It's possible that targeted users will respond more quickly to electronic surveys than to paper surveys (because they do not have to worry about finding a stamp and a mailbox).
If you are quoting directly, and a citation is included but not quotation marks, the result is still plagiarism:
Surveys can be conducted in person, by post, or electronically. However, it's possible that targeted users will respond more quickly to electronic surveys than to paper surveys (because they do not have to worry about finding a stamp and a mailbox) (Lazar, 2006, p. 81).
If an assignment uses the wording of a source, both quotation marks and a citation must be included:
Surveys can be conducted in person, by post, or electronically. However, “it's possible that targeted users will respond more quickly to electronic surveys than to paper surveys (because they do not have to worry about finding a stamp and a mailbox)” (Lazar, 2006, p. 81).
Plagiarism doesn't just mean copying words from another source, however.
Using the ideas of a source you have read, even if you write it in a different way, is still plagiarism:
Paper surveys take longer than those conducted online, because of practical considerations.
Quotation marks are not necessary if you have changed the wording (paraphrasing), but an in-text citation is still necessary:
Paper surveys take longer than those conducted online, because of practical considerations (Lazar, 2006).
Many new students worry about accidentally plagiarising. This is perfectly natural! The rules of referencing are complex and intimidating at first. Academic study involves a lot of reading, and it can be difficult to keep track of the sources of ideas. Most study guides contain stern warnings about the penalties for plagiarism.
It's actually very difficult to plagiarise accidentally.
- If you follow the guidelines on this page, plagiarism is easily avoided
- Keep clear notes while reading for an assignment, so that the source for all ideas is easy to recall
- If you are unsure whether to reference something or not, err on the side of caution and reference it
- If you have any doubts, ask your lecturer or tutor or Contact us
For information on how copyright affects students, see here:
References and further reading
Gibaldi, J. (2009). MLA handbook for writers of research papers (7th ed.). New York, NY: Modern Language Association of America. [Massey Library link]
Kennedy, M. L., & Smith, H. M. (2001). Reading and writing in the academic community (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. [Massey Library link]
Summers, J., & Smith, B. (2003). Communication skills handbook: How to succeed in written and oral communication (Rev. ed.). Milton, Australia: John Wiley & Sons. [Massey Library link]
Wallace, A., Schirato, T., & Bright, P. (1999). Beginning university: Thinking, researching and writing for success. St Leonards, Australia: Allen & Unwin. [Massey Library link]