You may have heard the term ‘plagiarism’ at school or at university, and no doubt you have heard someone say ‘’do not plagiarise’’ or ‘’please sign the plagiarism form when submitting your work”.  Do you know what plagiarism is and how it can negatively affect other authors?  Do you know the implications it has for your work, studies, reputation and/or career?   

What is plagiarism?   

There are many definitions and interpretations of plagiarism, but in plain English, it is ‘’taking someone else’s thoughts, words and expressions and placing them in one’s own work, without acknowledging the source”.  In essence, it is misappropriating someone else’s work for one’s own benefit without giving any credit to the original source. It is cheating and a blatant disregard for other authors who have worked hard to produce and publish their works over a period of time.  

Some examples of plagiarism 

There are many examples of plagiarism, so I will just discuss a few in this article: 

  1. Cutting and pasting verbatim – this is serious plagiarism where a student finds an article or extract from a book and just cuts and pastes large chunks from that work into his/her own work, without any acknowledgement.  If the amount copied is too much and is not in accordance with fair dealing or fair use provisions in his/her own country, this could also be copyright infringement.  

This image indicates the overlap between copyright infringement and plagiarism. 


Plagiarism negatively affects the moral or personality rights of the author.  The moral rights of an author give the author the right to be named the author of the work and protect the work against mutilation and distortion. Copyright infringement affects the legal or economic rights of the author.  These rights have financial implications for the author, especially if the amount copied without acknowledgement exceeds the permitted amounts in terms of fair dealing or fair use.  For example, if a student copies and pastes a few pages of a book chapter into his/her own work without permission from the rightsowner, and omits to acknowledge the source, this would be copyright infringement and plagiarism. 

Tip: Always get permission and acknowledge the source if you are using more than a fair portion of someone else’s work. If the work has an open source licence such as a Creative Commons licence, permission would not be necessary but you would need to follow the licence conditions for that work.  

  1. Using synonyms – this is where a student cuts and pastes an extract from another’s work and then uses a thesaurus or dictionary to change every second or third word, so that the passage looks different, and then fails to acknowledge the source too.  Even though the wording may have changed, the meaning, writing style and sentence structure are still the same as the original.   Essentially the plagiarised extract is saying the same thing as the original, just with some words changed. It gives the impression that these are the student’s thoughts, ideas and expressions, whilst, in fact, they have plagiarised the thoughts, ideas and expressions of the original author. The student has not added his viewpoint or input into his/her assignment or research report.  

Tip:  If you use someone else’s work, you need to either quote the extract directly, without any change to the phrase or sentence(s), and properly reference the source. Ideally, you should paraphrase or write the extract in your own words to show you understand the content and context, and acknowledge to indicate who the original source is.   

  1. Inconsistent spelling or grammar – this is where a student uses someone else’s work verbatim in their assignment or research, without acknowledgement and without noticing that the tense, font, spelling, or grammar differs from his/her own work. For instance, a student may use UK spelling in his own work, but includes extracts from others’ works which use U.S. spelling. Or, he/she could be writing in the present tense and then includes a section from someone else’s work that is written in the past tense and does not make sense.  This will indicate the student has taken those sections from somewhere else, and it is not his/her own work.   

Tip:  Make sure you notice differences like spelling, grammatical errors, capitalisation of certain words, and tenses, before including them in your work.  If you quote directly from someone else’s work, do not change any words. Leave the spelling or even grammatical errors as you find them, because you are quoting the exact words from someone else. You may add [sic] immediately after an error if you are quoting, which indicates that you found it like that in the text and it is not your error.  Make sure you reference correctly.  However, it is preferable to paraphrase the extract so you can correct any errors in spelling, grammar or tenses, and acknowledge the source accordingly.  

Are you aware that plagiarism is regarded as a serious offence in academia?  It is an offence recorded in institutional policies and disciplinary codes. It is punishable through a disciplinary process managed either by a Faculty Plagiarism Committee or the institution’s Legal Office. Plagiarism can affect your current marks, studies, and progress from one year to another. If suspended or expelled for serious copyright infringement and/or plagiarism, your options of getting admitted to another university or college may well be thwarted and your reputation damaged.   

If you would like to find out more about the do’s and don’ts about copyright and how to avoid plagiarism, how to paraphrase, etc., ask your Faculty/School or lecturer to arrange for Denise Nicholson at Scholarly Horizons to present a webinar for you and your fellow students. 

For more details, contact, or go to 

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