Written by Birkbeck Registry and adapted for TSMB by Nicholas Keep
Plagiarism is the most common form of examination offence encountered in universities, partly because of the emphasis now placed on work prepared by candidates unsupervised in their own time, but also because many students fall into it unintentionally, through ignorance of what constitutes plagiarism. Even if unintentional, it will still be considered an examination offence.
This document, developed as guidelines to departments by Birkbeck Registry, is intended to explain clearly what plagiarism is, and how you can avoid it. Acknowledgement is made to guidance issued by the USA Modern Language Association (MLA, 1998).
Plagiarism is the publication of borrowed thoughts as original, or in other words, passing off someone else’s work as your own. In any form, plagiarism is unacceptable in the School, as it interferes with the proper assessment of students academic ability.
Plagiarism has been defined as “the false assumption of authorship: the wrongful act of taking the product of another person’s mind, and presenting it as one’s own” (Lindey, 1952, p2). Therefore, using another person’s ideas or expressions or data in your writing without acknowledging the source is to plagiarise.
Borrowing others’ words, ideas or data without acknowledgement
It is acceptable, in your work, to use the words and thoughts of another person or data that another person has gathered but the borrowed material must not appear to be your creation. This includes essays, practical and research reports written by other students including those from previous years, whether you have their permission or not. It also applies to both ‘hard-copy’ material and electronic material, such as Internet documents. Examples include copying someone else’s form of words, or paraphrasing another’s argument, presenting someone else’s data or line of thinking.
This form of plagiarism may often be unintentional, caused by making notes from sources such as books or journals without also noting the source, and then repeating those notes in an essay without acknowledging that they are the data, words or ideas belonging to someone else. Guard against this by keeping careful notes that distinguish between your own ideas and researched material and those you obtained from others. Then acknowledge the source.
To work as part of a team, to be able and prepared to continue to learn throughout one’s career, and, most important, to take on board both care for the individual and the community, are essential aspects of a doctor’s role today.
Greengross, Sally (1997), “What Patients want from their Doctors”, Choosing Tomorrow’s Doctors, ed. Allen I, Brown PJ, Hughes P, Policy Studies Institute, London.
The essential aspects of a doctor’s role today are to work as part of a team, be able and prepared to continue to learn throughout one’s career, and, most importantly, to take on board both care for the individual and the community.
One social writer believes that the essential aspects of a doctor’s role today are to work as part of a team, be able and prepared to continue to learn throughout one’s career, and, most importantly, to take on board both care for the individual and the community (Greengross, 1997).
The binary shape of British higher education, until 1992, suggested a simple and misleading, dichotomy of institutions. […] Within their respective classes, universities and polytechnics were imagined to be essentially homogeneous. Their actual diversity was disguised. [….] The abandonment of the binary system, whether or not it encourages future convergence, highlights the pluralism which already exists in British Higher Education.
Scott, Peter (1995), The Meanings of Mass Higher Education, SRHE and Open University Press, Buckingham, p43.
Prior to the removal of the binary divide between polytechnics and universities in 1992, there was a misleading appearance of homogeneity in each sector. Now there is only one sector, the diversity of institutions is more apparent, even if convergence may be where we’re heading.
Peter Scott has argued that prior to the removal of the binary divide between polytechnics and universities in 1992, there was a misleading appearance of homogeneity in each sector. Now there is only one sector, the diversity of institutions is more apparent, even if convergence may be where we’re heading. (Scott, 1994)
In each revision, the inclusion of the author’s name acknowledges whose ideas these originally were (not the student’s) and the reference refers the reader to the full location of the work when combined with a footnote or bibliography. Note that in the second example, the argument was paraphrased – but even so, this is plagiarism of the idea without acknowledgement of whose idea this really is.
In writing any work, therefore (whether for assessment or not) you should document everything that you borrow – not only direct quotations and paraphrases but also information and ideas. There are, of course, some common-sense exceptions to this, such as familiar proverbs, well-known quotations or common knowledge.
But you must indicate the source of any appropriated material that readers might otherwise mistake for your own. If in doubt, cite your source or sources.
Copying material verbatim
Another example of plagiarism is the verbatim copying of chunks of material from another source without acknowledgement even where they are accepted facts, because you are still borrowing the phrasing and the order and the idea that this is a correct and complete list. Also, you might be infringing copyright (see below).
For example if you wrote based on example 2 above
The binary shape of British higher education, until 1992, suggested a simple and misleading, dichotomy of institutions. (Scott, 1995)
then this still could be regarded as plagiarism as you used his exact words. It is important to rephrase the ideas in your own words, to show that you understand them while still acknowledging the source.
Re-submission of work
Another form of plagiarism is submitting work you previously submitted before for another assignment. While this is obviously not the same as representing someone else’s ideas as your own, it is a form of self-plagiarism and is another form of cheating. If you want to re-work a paper for an assignment, ask your lecture whether this is acceptable, and acknowledge your re-working in a preface.
Collaboration and collusion
In collaborative work (if this is permitted by the lecturer) joint participation in research and writing does not constitute plagiarism in itself, provided that credit is given for all contributions. One way would be to state in a preface who did what; another, if roles and contributions were merged and truly shared, would be to acknowledge all concerned equally. However, where collaborative projects are allowed, it is usually a requirement that each individual’s contribution and work is distinguishable, so check with your lecturer. Usually, collusion with another candidate on assessed work (such as sharing chunks of writing or copying bits from each other) is NOT allowed.
Finally, you must guard against copyright infringement. Even if you acknowledge the source, reproducing a significant portion of any document (including material on the Internet) without permission is a breach of copyright, and a legal offence. You may summarise, paraphrase and make brief quotations (as I have done from my sources), but more than this risks infringing copyright.
Modern Language Association (1998), Guide for Writers of Research Papers (4th edition), MLA, New York
Lindey, A (1952), Plagiarism and Originality, Harper, New York.