Plagiarism is, to put it simply, passing off someone else’s text or idea as your own, even if the text has been edited and changed , with the use of synonyms and restructuring of sentences or paragraphs. Much more than just copyright infringement, plagiarism is a serious matter, that many students, intentionally or unintentionally, are confronted with during their studies.
An example of plagiarism:
Original text: “John and Julie went for dinner at a beach restaurant on a Sunday afternoon in July”
Plagiarised text: “John and Julie strolled to a restaurant by the beach for supper on a July Sunday afternoon”
In everyday life, plagiarism is seen as a bad habit, but in the academic world it is a major issue, that might cause a student to fail a course, or a tutor to have their academic credentials revoked. All parts of texts or ideas that are not your own should have a proper citation to make it clear that they are not your own.
This doesn’t mean that for everything you write you have to acknowledge the source. What is considered as ‘common knowledge’ can be used without references. For example, you can write about the effect gravity has on a glass when you push it off the edge of a table; however, you need to quote your source if you mention the equation F = G*((m sub 1*m sub 2)/r^2), which is Isaac Newton’s formula for the force of gravity. Important historical events, urban legends, and your own ideas, texts, videos, music, etc. not published previously, as well as scientific data that you have gathered yourself, can be used without reference. But if you are unsure, quote the source anyway, to be on the safe side.
Furthermore, plagiarism is closely linked to copyright infringement. Without going into details about copyright laws, you must always bear in mind that, in addition to academic consequences, copyright infringement might also lead to legal action against you by individuals or corporations.
So, how can you avoid unintentional plagiarism?
- First, you need to know the subject you are writing about well. You must search different sources, and different views on a specific subject. If your information comes from a number of sources, it is easier to reach your own conclusions, and avoid publishing recycled information.
- Second, make sure you always credit your sources by naming them in your text. It is next to impossible to write an academic paper without using previous findings or texts. This is absolutely fine, and it will prove that you have done your research. What is crucial is to give credit where credit is due. Mention your sources, either in footnotes e.g. a glass that is pushed off the edge of a table will drop to the floor1), or with quotation marks at the beginning and the end of the quoted text, e.g. “a glass pushed off the edge of a table will drop to the floor”, wrote Mr John Doe, or by crediting the person for the material they have written, e.g. according to Mr John Doe, a glass pushed off the edge of a table will drop to the floor.
- Thirdly , if you include material that you have written in previous papers, even if it was original information, you need to credit it to yourself; if you don’t it is considered self-plagiarism and can have similar effects to plagiarism.
- Finally, always check the internet to make certain you are not, even unintentionally, using material already written by someone else, without crediting your source. Also be on the look -out for certain phrases or passages that come to you easily, or sound too well structured. It might be an indication that you have read or heard it somewhere before.
All UNICAF students receive extensive information about plagiarism at the beginning of their studies in the Induction Module, together with other vital information. If you too would like to earn an internationally recognised degree, at a fraction of the cost, and without putting your career or family life on halt, you can do it online, with a UNICAF scholarship.
Find out if you qualify for a UNICAF scholarship by visiting www.unicaf.org