Forms of plagiarism

What is plagiarism

Plagiarism is the use (of ideas, content or structures) of another work without appropriately acknowledging the source to benefit in a setting where originality is expected(Foltýnek et al. 2019).

The reason plagiarism is wrong is not because you draw on other works, but rather because you don’t declare your sources. It is absolutely fine to use other sources. However, we must always correctly reference the original source. That means referencing it in a way that we can unambiguously locate it and trace it back. Since we combine our own ideas with the ideas of others in academic texts, we need to clearly differentiate what’s ours and what’s been adopted. See? Here we have provided the three tips to avoid plagiarism.

Three tips against plagiarism

  1. Distinguish other people’s ideas from your own
  2. Reference the original source
  3. Identify the original source so that it can be traced back

What plagiarism looks like

1. Word-for-word plagiarism

Copying a whole text or a part of a text written by someone else without declaring its source and pretending that it is your own work constitutes the most serious form of plagiarism. Plagiarism also occurs when the text is referenced, but it is unclear what is and isn’t your own idea.

Pay attention: If we copy several paragraphs, put them into our text without quotation marks and insert a reference to the end of the copied section, the extent of what we reproduced is unclear. Mark any citations with quotation marks, use italics, or differentiate them in another typographic style.

If we use a source in several places, the reference must be included in all places where we make use of the text.

2. Mosaic plagiarism

This results from compiling several short segments of text from different sources, without stating a reference for each reproduced segment.

Pay attention: Always state all your sources, even if you’re only citing a portion of a sentence. It does not suffice to list all sources in the bibliography. We must also refer to each source within the text.

3. Paraphrase or translation without source

The original idea is what counts. Even if we describe it in our own words – that is, we paraphrase – or we translate it from a different language, it is not our own idea. Accordingly, we must reference it.

Pay attention: The fact that your work and the original work are not textually identical will likely mean that the current a ntiplagiarism software will not detect the transgression. That, however, does not change the fact that you used an idea from another work and, as such, you must reference it.

4. Self-plagiarism

When we reuse our own work that has already been published or that we have already submitted for a different course, and we don’t reference it, that constitutes self-plagiarism. That is because we repeatedly gain an advantage from the same work or its part, such as an educational grade or scientific recognition.

Pay attention: A seminar paper or part of a paper which we have already submitted in one course cannot be submitted again as ne w in another course.

Naturally, you are allowed to utilise your own work, but you have to state that the text has already been published or submitted elsewhere, and then reference it. It’s a good idea to discuss this with your supervisor in advance.

5. Incorrect citations and source referencing

We can also commit plagiarism unintentionally. This might happen, for example, when we forget to refer to a source or when we leave out quotation marks and it’s unclear which ideas are the author’s own and which are copied.

Pay attention: Even one reference deleted by mistake might fit the definition of plagiarism. This will not usually lead to a disciplinary procedure, unlike in the cases of intentionally copied and unreferenced passages or references to non-existing sources. To be sure, check all your references and bibliography before you submit and format them according to the required referencing style. Chapter 6 will help you with that.

I don't understand what's bothering you. I submitted the same paper in a different course and it was OK there.

6. Undeclared contribution

Collective work and co-authorship are common in academic circles, and there is nothing wrong with this, when it is permitted. It is important to say if you have not worked alone on a task. We also have to clearly distinguish which portion is the result of teamwork, which portion was contributed by other authors and which is our own w ork.

Tip: Group projects can be dealt with the same way as journal contributions. They always state who contributed and in what ways – who brought the main idea, who conducted the literature review, who processed data, who wrote up the body of the article. This way, we can have a clear idea about the contribution of each individual author.

What about Wikipedia?

It doesn’t matter if our source is publicly accessible, if we have obtained consent for its use or if it’s published, for example, under a Creative Commons licence. It is someone else’s work, and when we use it, we must reference it.

It is a common error to think that we don’t need to reference Wikipedia because its content is publicly owned. Be careful! It is someone else’s work, and as such it must be referenced. At the same time, we should primarily use works with known authors, which Wikipedia pages usually do not have.

7. Commissioned papers

Every author is entitled to provide his or her work to someone else without requiring that he or she be stated as the author. However, when we present such work as our own, we are committing plagiarism. This is called ‘contract cheating’ or ‘academic ghostwriting’. A student commissions, usually for money, a work written by someone who agrees not to be included as the author. The student who puts his or her name to that work becomes a plagiarist.

Pay attention: Contract cheating is a form of plagiarism which does not breach the Copyright Act, nevertheless it breaches good morals and academic ethics. According to the Higher Education Act, contract cheating warrants expulsion from the study programme or rescinding the academic degree. We must also take into account that the actual author of the text or the company that operates in the field of commissioned papers might easily blackmail the student.

What is not plagiarism

1. Common knowledge

Some ideas have their own authors. For others, however, we can’t determine the work that they came from. These ideas are so-called common knowledge, and we can state these without referencing a source. They should be limited in our work because they do not contribute any novel ideas. Moreover, the vast majority of the presumed readers of our work are already familiar with such ide as.

Common knowledge is useful in the introduction, discussion or conclusion sections as a prelude to other ideas, whether our own or reproduced.

A universally known piece of information is, for example, that the capital city of Burkina Faso is Ouagadougou.

2. Proofreading, copy editing, translations

As long as the external contribution does not affect the ideas of the work, we do not consider it to be plagiarism. This includes copyediting or typographical adjustments. Translated works should state the translator, but the author remains the same. It is appropriate to mention those who helped us with our work, for example in the acknowledgements.