Deliberate and accidental plagiarism is an area of growing concern within higher education and the research community. In relation to your work, publishers are now using specialist detection software to check articles which have been submitted for publication, and as you may be teaching students and supervising postgraduate theses you need to have an understanding of plagiarism from both your point of view and that of a student.

Plagiarism and academic misconduct

Plagiarism is when you copy someone else’s work or use their ideas in your coursework, thesis, report etc, and then do not acknowledge that you have done this. If you plagiarise work, you are using another person’s work without acknowledgement. This is key to understanding what plagiarism is, and is key to appreciating the importance of academic integrity in the research process.

Plagiarism is a form of academic misconduct and you should ensure that you are familiar with the College's policy on academic conduct. The Concordat to support the Career Development of Researchers states under section D., Researchers' responsibilities, that:

‘Researchers should recognise their responsibility to conduct and disseminate research results in an honest and ethical manner and to contribute to the wider body of knowledge.’ (p.12)

A similar point is made at the College's Statistical Advisory Service web pages.

When a person copies and reproduces another person’s work, this is usually done with very little thought about or interpretation of the work being copied. This means that the ideas, concepts, arguments, methodological processes and so on that are being presented in the original work are unlikely to be truly understood by the person who has copied that work.

To develop a good understanding of a subject, and to be able to critically analyse and apply such ideas and concepts to your own work, you have to engage with the research and work that contributes to the subject knowledge. To do that you have to actively think about the material, data, research processes and so on that you are engaging with. Copying is a passive activity and you cannot afford to be passive when you are trying to make sense of complex ideas. Clearly, you have to be able to express in your own words how a process works, why an experiment produced a certain set of results, how a researcher developed his or her theory, thus developing a greater and deeper understanding of all this than if you try to regurgitate someone else’s words.

It is essential you know what is considered to be plagiaristic behaviour within your subject field. Pay attention to any local guidance you are given, for example, the accepted use of computer code. It is important to familiarise yourself with ‘common knowledge' within your subject or field, as the misunderstanding of what is and is not common knowledge can lead to plagiarism.

If you are submitting work for publication, be aware of self-plagiarism. This form of plagiarism (as well as others) is of concern to publishers, so you need to be aware that you are careful when submitting work for publication that you have correctly cited and acknowledged any of your previous work. This also applies when submitting work to several publications; if you submit the same work and this is discovered (it frequently is), you may find that you are not published at all.

The Library can provide help with raising plagiarism awareness, but ensure that you take advantage of the writing support available within College from the Graduate School and the Postdoc Development Centre.