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Subject Guides

Engineering: Copyright and plagiarism

Information about the Department of Engineering Library, including information for researchers


According to the University's Statement on Plagiarism, plagiarism is defined as:

...submitting as one's own work, irrespective of intent to deceive, that which derives in part or in its entirety from the work of others without due acknowledgement[; or, in the case of self-plagiarism, unless explicitly permitted by regulation, submitting one's own work that has already been submitted for assessment to satisfy the requirements of any other academic qualification, or submitted for publication without due acknowledgement]. It is both poor scholarship and a breach of academic integrity.

It is therefore crucial to ensure that copyright restrictions are followed throughout your career and that any references to ideas you got from other sources are properly cited. If you would like guidance on any aspect of copyright, plagiarism or referencing, please ask a member of library staff.

Reference managers

You can use reference managers to help keep track of what you've found in your literature search, what you've read and what you want to cite or quote in your writing. Managing your references from the beginning of your project will help ensure that you can easily and correctly cite any ideas you got from another source, reducing the risk that you'll accidentally plagiarize another author. There are many ways of doing this, but here are a few we can help you set up:


The Department of Engineering doesn't stipulate which referencing style should be used. For more guidance, see the University's guide to common referencing conventions and the Open UP Study Skills e-book The Complete Guide to Referencing and Avoiding Plagiarism.

Other sources of advice include:


The following information is intended as a guide to copyright and does not constitute legal advice.

Copyright is one of a bundle of rights which help to ensure that a work is not used without permission.  Copyright is automatically granted once the work has been produced in a tangible form, for example written down.  In most cases the first copyright holder is the author of the work.

The rights of the author can be divided into two groups – the moral right to be identified as the author and the economic right to make money from their work. The author retains the moral rights but may choose to give away the economic rights, for example by publishing in a journal. More information about these rights can be found here.

Third party copyright refers to copyright that is owned by someone else. Legislation allows researchers to use short quotations, extracts or excerpts from others work as long as the use meets the requirements of ‘fair dealing for the purposes of criticism and review’.  If researchers wish to reuse content they have authored but already published it is important to check if the publisher will permit this.

Creative Commons provides a way to licence the use of material you create and share. Using a simple formula it allows creators to build a licence which suits their needs and authorised appropriate use of their work. Using a Creative Commons licence allows researchers to get more exposure for their work whilst maintaining control over its use.

For more information about copyright contact the Legal Services Office of the University.


A how-to guide on images and copyright

If you're using images (photos, figures, graphs, etc.) in your presentations, reports or posters it's important to make sure you have permission to use them and that you credit the creators properly. When you've found an image online it can be difficult to know what you're allowed to do with it. Here's a step-by-step guide to using images from the internet:

  1. The easiest way to make sure you can use images is to create your own. You can also search for images that are licensed to be reused in the first place. See the gif above on how to find Google's search filter for images that are labeled for reuse. However, you should always check the source of the image for how to attribute it. Another good source for images with flexible permissions is Wikimedia Commons. Their pages include information about how to attribute images and how you're allowed to use them.

  2. Look for a license on web pages where you find content telling you whether and how you can use it. Creative Commons licenses are the clearest to understand and should link you to informational pages about what you are allowed to do.

  3. If there's not a clear license, ask the creator for permission directly, explaining how you intend to use their work. Only use the image once you have received their explicit permission.

  4. If you can't find the creator's contact details or it has been posted without attribution, you can try a reverse image search to find the first instance of that image being posted.

  5. If you aren't convinced that you've found the original image and/or don't know how to attribute it, try to find another suitable image, or speak to a member of the Library team or the University's legal expert on copyright.