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CIPPET Study Support: 4. Plagiarism

This guide will help you find resources, understand academic and reflective writing and help you prepare for your coursework and exams

What is plagiarism?

E-bookPlagiarism occurs when someone presents a piece of work as if it were their own. More precisely, it has been defined as:

'use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work' [1]

As described above, many pieces of academic work include material from other people. What is important is that this material can be clearly distinguished from your own work. The assessment of plagiarism is therefore closely linked to the practice of referencing that is used. Poor referencing can lead a reader to think that the text is the student’s work when in fact it is copied or based on a reference.

There are many possible ways in which a text can be written which might vary from blatant plagiarism to poor referencing. Examples are the easiest way to will illustrate the concept.

[1] Definition from

See the pages in this section for more information on the University policy on plagiarism, examples and tips of how to avoid it:

Assessment procedures

Throughout our lives we are subject to a wide range of assessments – we are measured, checked, assessed and evaluated. In many cases the results of these assessments are important for our future and influence the way others see us. We therefore hope to do well and try to get the best result.

Many academic assessments require you to submit written work – this could be an essay, a practical report, solutions to mathematical problems or a more substantial project report. The primary object of all academic work is to enhance your knowledge and skill is your chosen subject area. Your effort in doing the work will result in you obtaining feedback. This enables you to learn from your lecturer what aspects are good and what are poor and do better work the next time. Your progress is monitored by the submitted work being marked and, as a reward for good work, the marks can contribute to your overall degree performance.

Some students find academic work easy and can quickly draft an essay which fulfils the lecturer’s requirements. Other students may struggle to put together the necessary analysis and, despite spending much longer on the work, find that their marks are lower. This can be frustrating and annoying but is a consequence of us all being individuals with different abilities.

If you are an athlete, you undertake training and develop your fitness so that when the competition arrives, you will do your best and you hope that you will win the event. Whether or not you win, you expect the event to be fair and for all the competitors to have an equal chance of taking the gold medal. The pressure to win however can lead to a few people trying to improve their result with performance enhancing drugs. If detected, these people are regarded as cheats and will be forced to return any awards and they will be banned from the sport for many months or even years.

Academic performance is no different! Whilst the vast majority of students will want to do their best through their own efforts, there is a temptation to try and enhance your marks by cheating. A simple, but highly risky, technique would be to have another person sit your examination. Another option would be to get someone else to write your essay. These are clearly cheating and would be subject to severe penalties once detected. The vast majority of students would not contemplate attempting to cheat in this way.

What we of course have to try and ensure is that the assessment does provide a good measure of the student’s own academic ability. Most academic knowledge depends upon the reading and understanding of many other people’s previous work. In order to advance scientific knowledge it is necessary to fully understand the current state of knowledge – to analyse previous work, to identify gaps or possible inconsistencies and to propose further experiments or data collection to verify a new theory. By using evidence from other published work and combining it with new data, you may be able to generate new ideas which will become accepted as scientific facts. Others will then use your work to further extend the knowledge.

Academic work therefore often combines an analysis of current knowledge with a student’s own thoughts and ideas. The current knowledge is described and critically discussed; it is then used to justify the development of a new idea or the design of a new experiment.

This information has been adapted with permission from the second edition of a booklet prepared by Dr David Jukes for students in the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Reading.