What is Plagiarism and How Can I Avoid It?

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What is Plagiarism and How Can I Avoid It?

Plagiarism is the unacknowledged use of someone’s else’s material ie passing off someone else’s ideas as your own. That’s why we have referencing systems 🙂 .

Avoiding plagiarism is easy: give people credit for their work! This is usually done by quoting but sometimes paraphrasing. Always make it clear who you’re paraphrasing or quoting.


Swan argues:

‘Understanding the legal context unlocks both the comic and tragic potential of eighteenth-century texts, enabling us to appreciate more fully their colour and vitality but also their rôle in exploring some of the most important socio-legal issues of the period.’ (You would then footnote my name, the title of my book, Fictions of Law, publisher, date of publication, page number etc – the format would depend on which referencing system you are using).

It’s important to tie the quotation / reference to your own argument. This can be done very quickly: ‘As Swan argues’ indicates that the quotation will support your argument. ‘Swan notes helpfully,’ ‘Swan argues pertinently’, ‘Swan highlights this issue in…’ all do the same thing. Of course you may prefer to disagree, in which case you can say ‘Swan argues that … but the textual evidence does not support this view’. You are then in a position to explain your own argument, naturally with superior textual evidence 🙂 .

It is usually better from a point of style to quote than to paraphrase but there are times when paraphrasing can work. Paraphrasing is simply saying the same thing but using different words eg Swan argues in Fictions of Law that understanding the legal context is essential to appreciating eighteenth-century texts fully. You would still need to footnote the study you’re talking about if you have a specific point in mind.

Plagiarism is usually deliberate eg cutting and pasting chunks of text from the internet (or a book), putting it into your essay and hoping that the tutor won’t notice.

Do Plagiarism Rules Apply to Lectures and Seminars?

Plagiarism rules do not apply to lectures or seminars ie where you sit and listen to your lecturer speak about a topic. If the lecturer gives you a handout or a written transcript of the lecture either in print or online then it is good practice to reference them.

For the purposes of writing essays plagiarism applies to written words rather than spoken ones.

If in doubt just reference clearly and then you won’t fall foul of plagiarism rules.

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