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CIPPET Study Support: A detailed example

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

The assignment

Consider that you have been asked to write an essay discussing the presence of dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the food supply.

You have found a useful document on the web pages of the European Food Safety Authority (http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/scdocs/doc/1385.pdf)

EFSA page

and something on the Food Standards Agency web site (http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/faq/36454/ - no longer available)

FSA page

How could you use the text? Example 1A

Here is a possible start to your essay:

Dioxins and dioxin-like compounds include a range of toxic and environmentally persistent substances. The terms most often refer to 29 congeners of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, polychlorinated dibenzofurans and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB). While the amount of dioxins and dioxin-like compounds in the environment has declined since the late 1970s, there is a continued concern about the safety of the food supply and the potential adverse health effects of exposure to this group of substances. Because of their lipophilicity, together with their persistency in the environment, dioxins have accumulated in the food chain, particularly in animal fat, dairy products, and fish.

Not all dioxins and PCBs are toxic. Different dioxin compounds have different toxicities and dioxins are most often found in mixtures rather than as single compounds in the environment. The most toxic forms of dioxin are 2,3,7,8-TCDD (TCDD) and 1,2,3,7,8-PeCDD. TCDD has been studied in most detail and is usually considered the most potent dioxin. The potency of other dioxins is expressed as fractions of the TCDD potency, called toxic equivalents (TEQs). These toxic equivalents have been agreed internationally, based on a scheme proposed by the World Health Organisation.

Verdict: This would be considered a very bad case of plagiarism. The two paragraphs in the essay are taken directly from the two sources. There has been no attempt to provide a reference and the words are identical (apart from the short sentence at the start of the second paragraph).

What about adding some references? Example 1B

An attempt might be made to provide references as follows:

Dioxins and dioxin-like compounds include a range of toxic and environmentally persistent substances. The terms most often refer to 29 congeners of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, polychlorinated dibenzofurans and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB). While the amount of dioxins and dioxin-like compounds in the environment has declined since the late 1970s, there is a continued concern about the safety of the food supply and the potential adverse health effects of exposure to this group of substances. Because of their lipophilicity, together with their persistency in the environment, dioxins have accumulated in the food chain, particularly in animal fat, dairy products, and fish (EFSA, 2010).

Not all dioxins and PCBs are toxic. Different dioxin compounds have different toxicities and dioxins are most often found in mixtures rather than as single compounds in the environment. The most toxic forms of dioxin are 2,3,7,8-TCDD (TCDD) and 1,2,3,7,8-PeCDD. TCDD has been studied in most detail and is usually considered the most potent dioxin. The potency of other dioxins is expressed as fractions of the TCDD potency, called toxic equivalents (TEQs). These toxic equivalents have been agreed internationally, based on a scheme proposed by the World Health Organisation. (FSA, 2001)

References:

EFSA (2010): “Results of the monitoring of dioxin levels in food and feed.”, EFSA Journal 2010; 8(3):1385 [36 pp.]. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2010.1385. Online: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/scdocs/doc/1385.pdf [Accessed 30 July 2010]
FSA (2001): “Questions and Answers on Dioxins and PCB's”, FSA Website: http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/faq/36454/ [Accessed 30 July 2010]

Verdict: Although the sources have been given, there is no indication as to the extent that they have been used. Someone marking this would assume that the text was written by the student as a summary of a longer text.

Does using quotes make it better? Example 1C

To avoid the risk of plagiarism, quotation marks must be used when text is copied without change:

“Dioxins and dioxin-like compounds include a range of toxic and environmentally persistent substances. The terms most often refer to 29 congeners of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, polychlorinated dibenzofurans and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB). While the amount of dioxins and dioxin-like compounds in the environment has declined since the late 1970s, there is a continued concern about the safety of the food supply and the potential adverse health effects of exposure to this group of substances. Because of their lipophilicity, together with their persistency in the environment, dioxins have accumulated in the food chain, particularly in animal fat, dairy products, and fish” (EFSA, 2010).

Not all dioxins and PCBs are toxic. “Different dioxin compounds have different toxicities and dioxins are most often found in mixtures rather than as single compounds in the environment. The most toxic forms of dioxin are 2,3,7,8-TCDD (TCDD) and 1,2,3,7,8-PeCDD. TCDD has been studied in most detail and is usually considered the most potent dioxin. The potency of other dioxins is expressed as fractions of the TCDD potency, called toxic equivalents (TEQs). These toxic equivalents have been agreed internationally, based on a scheme proposed by the World Health Organisation.” (FSA, 2001)

References:

EFSA (2010): “Results of the monitoring of dioxin levels in food and feed.”, EFSA Journal 2010; 8(3):1385 [36 pp.]. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2010.1385. Online: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/scdocs/doc/1385.pdf [Accessed 30 July 2010]
FSA (2001): “Questions and Answers on Dioxins and PCB's”, FSA Website: http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/faq/36454/ [Accessed 30 July 2010]

Verdict: It is now clear that the text has been quoted exactly from the original articles. This is no longer plagiarism – it is however an example of very poor academic work. No attempt has been made to analyse the material or to put into context.

What about paraphrasing? Example 1D

Frequently students consider that it is acceptable to change a few words – sometimes known as paraphrasing. Consider this attempt:

Dioxins and similar compounds include a range of very poisonous substances which can persist in the environmental for long periods. The term most often is used for 29 related compounds of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, polychlorinated dibenzofurans and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB). Although the amount of dioxins and dioxin-like compounds in the environment has declined during the last 40 years, there is a continued concern about the safety of the food supply and the potential adverse health effects of exposure to them. Because of their ability to be stored in fatty tissue, together with their persistency in the environment, dioxins have accumulated in the food chain, including in animal fat, dairy products, and fish (EFSA, 2010).

Not all dioxins and PCBs are toxic. Each dioxin compound has a different toxicity and dioxins are most often found in the environment in mixtures rather than as single compounds. The most toxic forms of dioxin are 2,3,7,8-TCDD (TCDD) and 1,2,3,7,8-PeCDD. TCDD has been studied in most detail and is the most potent dioxin. The potency of other dioxins is expressed as fractions of the TCDD potency, called toxic equivalents (TEQs). Based on a scheme proposed by the World Health Organisation, these toxic equivalents have been agreed internationally. (FSA, 2001)

References:

EFSA (2010): “Results of the monitoring of dioxin levels in food and feed.”, EFSA Journal 2010; 8(3):1385 [36 pp.]. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2010.1385. Online: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/scdocs/doc/1385.pdf [Accessed 30 July 2010]
FSA (2001): “Questions and Answers on Dioxins and PCB's”, FSA Website: http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/faq/36454/ [Accessed 30 July 2010]

Verdict: Unfortunately this is likely to be considered a combination of plagiarism and poor academic practice. By changing the words, there appears to be an attempt to hide the origins of the text. There has been no attempt to consider other material and all that has happened is that slight changes have been made to the choice of words and their order.

How then should this material have been used? Example 1E

Although it would be better to use a wider selection of sources, the following is an attempt to start the essay using the same material but writing it with some personal thoughts and making it much clearer what is from the references and what it not:

The food supply provides people with many chemicals which are necessary for the maintenance of life. Unfortunately the food supply can also contain many chemicals which are potentially toxic. One set of compounds which have been identified as posing a significant risk are the dioxins and similar compounds. A recent report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has investigated the extent of contamination in the food supply. Their report (EFSA, 2010) indicates that dioxins and dioxin-like compounds consist of 29 congeners of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, polychlorinated dibenzofurans and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB). In considering the health risks, EFSA state: “While the amount of dioxins and dioxin-like compounds in the environment has declined since the late 1970s, there is a continued concern about the safety of the food supply and the potential adverse health effects of exposure to this group of substances.” (EFSA, 2010). A major concern is that the dioxins accumulate in fatty tissue and, as EFSA points out, this can lead to high levels being found in fatty foods of animal origin including in animal fat, dairy products, and fish.

It has long been known that not all dioxins and PCBs are toxic. In 2001, the UK Food Standards Agency provided advice to the public on the toxicity of the substances. They pointed out that “Different dioxin compounds have different toxicities” and they emphasised that “the most toxic forms of dioxin are 2,3,7,8-TCDD (TCDD) and 1,2,3,7,8-PeCDD” (FSA, 2001). Evidence from toxicity studies have shown that TCDD is probably the most toxic and, as the FSA pointed out: “The potency of other dioxins is expressed as fractions of the TCDD potency, called toxic equivalents (TEQs). These toxic equivalents have been agreed internationally, based on a scheme proposed by the World Health Organisation.” (FSA, 2001)

References:

EFSA (2010): “Results of the monitoring of dioxin levels in food and feed.”, EFSA Journal 2010; 8(3):1385 [36 pp.]. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2010.1385. Online: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/scdocs/doc/1385.pdf [Accessed 30 July 2010]
FSA (2001): “Questions and Answers on Dioxins and PCB's”, FSA Website: http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/faq/36454/ [Accessed 30 July 2010]