When students start university, they will need to understand how to use information correctly and ethically, basically meaning to reference any work they have used, from ideas to direct quotations. Plagiarism is a serious offence and can end in severe consequences, and it could all end up being because you didn’t actually know you were plagiarising! Due to the severity and importance of understanding the concept, here is a quick guide on what every student needs to know about plagiarism, student referencing and why.
What is Plagiarism?
The majority of your college or university education will be you reading and learning what others think and have written about the topics you are studying, and your job is to integrate that into your own work and learning. Plagiarism is when you fail to cite, reference or show that you have used someone else’s work. The way plagiarism works is that, if you write about a topic, an idea or a theory, and don’t mention that they belong to someone else, the reader then has to assume that they are your ideas and theories – when they’re not, and this is considered cheating.
How do I know what to reference?
Academic work can be found in a textbook, article, journal and even on the internet. When it comes to referencing in your own work, any piece of information that didn’t come out of your mind and is a part of your thinking process belongs to someone else and needs to be made clear who it does belong to.
What you need to acknowledge
If you paraphrase or sum up someone else’s idea, then you still need to cite where you got that from. Other material you need to give credit for, are statistics, charts and tables – as they would have been part of a study, theory or test, and obviously not part of your own trials. Even graphics, images and other visual material needs to be sourced, and if you watched television programmes, film, listened to a CD – it all needs to be a part of your referencing system and including in your bibliography. If you ever are in doubt about what you need to acknowledge, include a citation and reference anyway. This will protect you and your work.
How to best avoid plagiarism?
Firstly, when you are doing your research for a piece of coursework, presentation or research paper, you should take notes at whatever you come across and may use. IF you are searching on the web, make a note of the date and time you accessed the website, and write down page numbers of textbooks, journals and articles when reading the material.
Plagiarism is taken seriously at an academic level and shouldn’t be considered lightly – it could affect your academic career and your time at university. If you understand how to cite and reference properly, then you will never be apart of the plagiarism firing line. If you are still unsure, you can talk to your tutor and lecturers about referencing or check to see if your university run workshops.
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