UPDATE: Due to COVID-19 there has been more recent guidance on RGU academic processes and procedures published. Please visit RGU Coronavirus Guidance for the more up-to-date information.

Plagiarism is a word we hear a lot at university but what is it? Plagiarism can be summed up as presenting the work and/or ideas from another person as your own.

Incorporating work from other people is a necessary part of academic writing. The ability to synthesise information, combining different aspects of your ideas/research and the ideas of others in order to produce new ideas, is a skill that should be acquired in order to allow for your ideas to be given credence and authority. In this sense, sources usually become the foundation or the building blocks for your own arguments.

Whilst information synthesis is a crucial part of your academic skillset, appropriate use of citations and references is arguably more important as these highlight how this synthesis has occurred. When information (work, research, graphs, data, illustrations, code etc...) is incorporated into your own work without full acknowledgement, regardless of the original author's consent, then this is considered plagiarism.

Have a look below at some common forms of plagiarism, and remember, plagiarism can be intentional or unintentional. If you need assistance with identifying or avoiding plagiarism, contact Study Skills or the Library.

  • Verbatim

    When parts of another's work are copied directly and presented as your own work without appropriate quotations and/or citations. Any use of the exact words from another's work should be placed in quotation marks (" ") and cited appropriately. Ensure you make distinction between your own work and someone else's!

  • Collusion

    Two or more students working together, without prior authorisation of the School, to produce the same piece of work or to produce certain aspects of a piece of work, with the intention of presenting the work individually as their own. Ensure you understand fully the extent of collaboration permitted on any given assignment, and specifically which parts of work must be completed on your own.

  • Omitting Assistance

    A failure to mention assistance which contributed and aided in the production of your work, such as advice from fellow students and other external sources. This does not apply to assistance provided by your School or to ordinary proofreading. However, guidance which has lead to material changes of content or approach to your work needs to be acknowledged. If you are unsure whether you are omitting assistance or not, confer with your School for clarification.

  • Contract Cheating

    Use of third parties in the production and/or submission of your work, such as material which was written for you, and for which payment may or may not have been made. The work you submit must be your own and you should not submit work completed for you by a third party.

  • Self-plagiarism

    Resubmitting work or reusing portions of a previously written/submitted text while you are authoring a new work is self-plagiarism. You should avoid reusing your own previously written work or data in a new written product without informing the reader the material has appeared elsewhere. Unless this is specifically provided for in course regulations, then if your work is citable (it has been published) you need to reference it clearly. If you are unsure whether you are self-plagiarising, confer with your personal tutor or course leader for clarification.

Whilst there may be other types of plagiarism, it will become easier to develop your own work and to synthesise the work of others appropriately once you are aware of the most common types shown above. Below is some guidance on using the work of others, some tips on avoiding plagiarism and what you should do in the instance an allegation of plagiarism has been lodged against you.

  • Using the Work of Others

    Using the work of others is not only a great idea, but it is expected as you need to frame your own work within the already established ideas of your studies. Therefore, start reading and start thinking so that you can synthesis information and start the process of weaving together and integrating information from disparate sources into a coherent whole. When you have a source, consider what you think the work means or what you think the data shows, and envision yourself explaining the work to someone. When you can effectively explain what the work shows, you are ready to think about how far it influences and integrates into both other authors' and your own arguments. When it comes to constructing your work, appropriately acknowledge and reference all of your sources to show the knowledge and research you are drawing on. This will not only allow the reader to check the validity of your work but it will also strengthen your own work by providing a clear basis for it.

  • Avoiding Plagiarism

    Ensure your references and citations are accurate, and give yourself enough time to proofread your work! Ask a personal tutor or a course leader if you are unsure about your work, or contact Study Skills. You should also read the RGU Referencing Guide for assistance related to appropriate academic references. Campus Moodle also has a lot of information and help on how to avoid plagiarism with the Academic Honesty Guide.

  • Alleged Plagiarism

    When it is alleged that a student has committed plagiarism, usually the student will be asked to attend a misconduct hearing. The full procedure can be found in the RGU Academic Regulations. A misconduct hearing is for the University to investigate allegations of misconduct and for the facts of the case to be examined and the student concerned questioned on various aspects of the work, including methods used to produce the work, key sources and knowledge of the subject area. The student is given every opportunity to explain the circumstances of the case and to submit any relevant mitigating evidence for consideration. If you have been asked to attend a Misconduct Hearing, read our advice on Misconduct.

RGU encourages academic honesty and has a lot of information on Campus Moodle, where you can find guidance and assistance regarding how to reference appropriately. The Library also has access to a vast range of resources you should check out.

If you have any questions concerning plagiarism, contact your personal tutor, course leader or get in touch with Study Skills or the Library.

*Updated for the 2020-2021 Academic year.

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