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UG CamGuides: How do I reference and avoid plagiarism?

Establishing good academic practice from the start of your degree

What is plagiarism?

two women dressed the sameIt is using ideas or the work of another person and presenting it as your own work. It can take a number of forms:

  • Copying - cutting and pasting work into your own text
  • Colluding - where two or more people work together to produce a piece of work but where all or part of the work is submitted as their own

It applies to all types of sources and media: text, illustrations, photographs, musical quotations, mathematical derivations, computer code, material downloaded from websites, drawn from manuscripts, published and unpublished material including lecture handouts and other students' work.

You can also be accused of self-plagiarising: resubmitting work for assessment that you have already been assessed for. If you want to reuse elements of that original piece of work, you should not simply copy it but cite yourself in the way you would a published author.


With thanks to:

Jessica (Human, Social, and Political Sciences)

Avoiding plagiarism

If you write essays as part of your course, you will be required to read around the subject and organise your ideas into a coherent argument. It is very important to reference your sources each time you include an idea or an argument from your reading, whether you have summarised the information, quoted it directly or paraphrased it. Effective quotation and use of source materials can show credibility and authority in the writing you produce, as well as providing opposing views against which you can comment. Anything you cite should clearly support your conclusions.

To help you distinguish between your thoughts and that of another, it is important to keep clear notes that easily define your contribution versus the words of the author. Cite resources for everything that isn’t common knowledge, such as widely known historical facts. This doesn't normally include ideas or interpretations.

Read the following definitions to understand how you can legitimately use the work of others.

Definitions - click on the words to find out more

If you refer to specific information that you have found e.g. fact, event, date, map and you use an in-text citation as well as a full reference in the bibliography or references section at the end of your work – this is reporting. Here are some useful reporting words that are useful for evaluating and writing about other authors’ work e.g.

  • Argue
  • Demonstrate
  • Explain

This is necessary to capture your research in writing. Use it to show your understanding of an argument. You can use a summary to show the key outcomes of a study or show a specific approach taken by a researcher.

  • Read and think – what is this telling me – (in the fewest possible words)?
  • Write it in your own words, but be brief!
  • Record key details of each source used: put an in-text reference close to the summary and list full details in the references at the end of your work.

Generally, in each paragraph a point is developed. If you link three or four such points together you have an ‘argument’. Using summary with appropriate quotation forms the basis of good writing.

If you copy or repeat a passage or use the exact wording from a source. Perhaps there is an exact turn of phrase that is particularly significant and cannot be conveyed by paraphrasing. You might need to quote the text of a formal definition or standard to ensure the exact meaning is made clear to your reader. However, use quotation sparingly. You should only use a quotation if it is worth a comment. Tell the reader why you have chosen to use it. Try asking yourself the following questions:

  • Is the author eminent or an authority?
  • Is the quotation particularly vivid or surprising?
  • Does the language they use convey particular meaning?
A paraphrase should be a restatement of the meaning of the original text in your own words and not simply changing some words or sentences around. Expressing ideas in your own words will show your tutor how well you understand the original material.
lightbulb iconThe official definition

The University has issued an in-depth definition of plagiarism, which it is useful to be familiar with before starting your course. 

Have a look and if you have any questions, ask a librarian or Director of Studies once you've settled in.

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