Plagiarism is a form of cheating that the University treats seriously. Find out about plagiarism and how you can avoid it in your work.
What is plagiarism?
Plagiarism is when you present someone else’s work as if it were yours, whether you mean to or not. “Someone else’s work” means anything that is not your own idea. This includes:
- material from books, journals, or any other printed source
- the work of other students or staff
- information from the internet
- software programs and other electronic material
- designs and ideas
- the way material is organised or structured.
Four types of plagiarism
1. Complete and near complete plagiarism
This involves direct copying of all or part of someone else’s work and claiming it as your own, without referencing the original author.
2. Patchwork plagiarism
This is when you pull material (phrases, sentences, or ideas) from other people’s work and insert it into your own work.
3. Inadvertent or lazy plagiarism
This may not be deliberate—it often results from careless note taking. It includes incorrect use of quotation marks or page numbers, uncited quotations, or the inclusion of footnotes from other sources without acknowledgement.
4. Submitting the same work in more than one course
You’re not allowed to resubmit work you’ve done in one course to meet the requirements of another course. If you want to build on your own earlier work, talk with your lecturer first and get their permission.
Why you shouldn’t plagiarise
The value of your qualification from Victoria University of Wellington depends on our academic integrity. Academic integrity means that staff and students should always treat others honestly, fairly, and with respect. Plagiarism is dishonest. It’s a form of cheating and it goes against our ethical standards.
The University has systems in place to detect plagiarism. If you plagiarise, you’ll be penalised under the Student Conduct Statute.
How to avoid plagiarism
Know what plagiarism is
See the explanation above and the examples below. Practise paraphrasing and citing your sources correctly.
Cite your sources properly
Citation and referencing styles may vary between courses. Your school or programme probably has information on the specific conventions you should follow. If you're not sure, check with your course coordinator or school or programme administrator.
Develop effective research skills
When you take notes, record any quoted material accurately. Make sure you know where your writing closely resembles the work of others. You must clearly indicate when you are expressing someone else’s ideas.
Improve your writing skills
Take every chance to practise expressing your own ideas in writing. Pay attention to feedback from your lecturers.
Manage your time
Sometimes students plagiarise because they run out of time to finish an assignment. Give yourself plenty of time to carry out research, rewrite drafts, check your sources, and ensure you have fully acknowledged all ideas and material that are not your own.
Paraphrasing is when you rewrite someone else’s ideas in your own words. It shows that you understand what you’ve read.
For short passages:
- Break up long sentences
- Combine short sentences
- Use synonyms (use a thesaurus)
For longer passages:
- Close the book
- Write down what you remember
Examples of good and bad paraphrasing
Original: ‘In research writing, sources are cited for two reasons: to alert readers to the sources of your information and to give credit to the writers from whom you have borrowed words and ideas.’
Version A: In research writing, we cite sources for a couple of reasons: to notify readers of our information sources and give credit to those from whom we have borrowed. (Hacker)
Version B: Researchers cite their sources to ensure that their audience knows where they got their information and to recognise and credit the original work. (Hacker, 1995, p.260)
Version B is not plagiarism. The student has used her own words to accurately convey the author’s meaning and has fully acknowledged the source. Version A is plagiarism, as only minor wording changes have been made. Also, the citation in Version A is incomplete.
Citing your sources
When you use other people's ideas, you have to say where they came from. There are many different referencing styles—for example, APA, Harvard, Chicago B. Your school should give you guidelines on which one to use.
Here’s an example of citing your source using the Harvard referencing system:
- ‘A Vision’, written in 1925, is one of Yeats’s best-known poems. Opinions vary on Yeats’s poetry: “Some critics think his work is supple and muscular in its rhythms and sometimes harshly modernist, while others find his poems barren and weak in imaginative power” (Williamson 1996, 67).
See how the writer used quotation marks and put the author’s name, publication date, and page number in parentheses after the quote. Alternatively, you can put that information in a footnote at the bottom of the page.
Where to find help
There are several places at the University where you can get help with your writing.
- For advice on improving your academic writing, visit the Language Learning Centre.
- See a step-by-step guideline for writing an essay in Student Learning resources.
- For general study advice, talk with a Student Learning adviser.
You can also use an online tool for preventing plagiarism, such as Turnitin. This tool compares your submitted work with a large database of existing material online. It identifies the percentage of your work that comes directly from online information. This helps you to acknowledge your sources properly.