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What is plagiarism?

The simple version

Plagiarism is when a person uses someone else's words or ideas without acknowledging them or, even worse, presents them as their own. This could be done intentionally: for example, a student may find a source that says exactly what they'd want to say if they could. They choose not to cite that source when they use that paragraph in their work. This makes it look as if they wrote the paragraph instead of just copying it from somewhere else.

It can also be done unintentionally: a student loses track of their notes and can't distinguish between their own words and those of the book they were reading. The assignment is due in an hour… they submit it without searching for the source of the words and referencing it correctly.

Check the example of efficient note taking in the section How can I avoid plagiarism?

The official information

For the official run-down of what plagiarism is, you should read through the Monash policy on plagiarism Opens in a new window.

What's OK

Work through the information on plagiarism on the Language and Learning Online site to clarify your understanding of what is OK and what isn't.

mpower gameYou're searching the Internet for some ideas about how you might answer your assignment question. You find a website that discusses almost exactly the question you have to answer. What do you do?
Due to time pressures and a lack of confidence, you use parts of the website - a couple of sentences or a paragraph - reasonably confident that nobody will know that the words aren't yours.
You forget to write down where some of your quotes come from. When you type up your final version, you can't find the same website but leave them in there anyway.
You keep a record of where the source is and who wrote it but aren't sure of how to use it because the assignment has to be in your own words.

Remember, at university you are expected to use the words and ideas of others to support and explain your own ideas.

What you have to do is acknowledge the source of your support each time you draw on the ideas of other scholars and researcher, and include a bibliography or reference list at the end. Lecturers like to see a longish list of references because it means you have engaged in some wider reading. This always attracts higher marks.

Also check:

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