What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is when you copy someone else’s work, words or ideas and use these in your coursework, thesis, report, etc and do not acknowledge that you have done this. This can be either intentional or unintentional. 

Plagiarism is considered a form of cheating and is an examination offence. You will receive instruction within your taught course to understand what plagiarism is and how to avoid it. Your lecturers will use several methods to identify possible plagiarism, which may include an electronic text-matching tool. 

There are College policies on Examinations and assessments including specific reference to plagiarism and its relationship to Examinations and academic integrity. 

Plagiarism is also addressed in the Honesty and Integrity area of the Student Code of Conduct. 

Writing support to advance skill in STEMM communication is offered through the Centre for Academic English. 

It is important that you: 

  • know what plagiarism is and why it is an academic offence 
  • are aware that all material you use from online and print sources should be acknowledged properly 
  • understand whether assigned group work is to be submitted with individual contributions or as a joint piece of work 
  • know that if you re-use parts of your own work, you must acknowledge this (to not do so is self-plagiarism) 

Knowing where and how the collected information you use, developing your writing skills and understanding the rules of good academic practice, such as using a consistent referencing style, will all reduce unintentional plagiarism. 

Reference management support is available from the Library. Please speak to your lecturers or personal tutor if you have any concerns or contact your subject librarian 

Plagiarism and academic integrity 

An important part of higher education study is becoming familiar with the literature of your discipline. Researchers, scientists, engineers and medical practitioners have produced key literature in your subject field. The concept of academic integrity is built upon the act of recognising the ideas and work that have already been produced and of any subsequent work and giving proper credit to those who developed the ideas. 

Good academic practice requires developing skill in active reading, understanding ideas in existing literature and developing the ability to write in your own words. As a member of an academic community you are required to take an active role and to respect other members. Demonstrating your original thought process with respect to previous research shows an understanding of what you have learned and read and will mean you receive much better results. 

Types of plagiarism

Copy and paste

Copy and paste is a common form of plagiarism. If you copy a piece of work and paste it into your assignment, you are plagiarising – even if you acknowledge the source. You can only copy a piece of work and paste it into your assignment if you are using a direct quotation using accurate referencing.

Word switch

If you copy a sentence or paragraph into your assignment and change a few words you are committing a type of plagiarism known as word switch – even if you acknowledge the original source.

Concealing sources

You must acknowledge your sources each time you refer to them in your work. If you refer to the same source more than once you must acknowledge it each time, otherwise you may be committing a type of plagiarism known as concealing sources. 

This is often an unintentional act of plagiarism and displays a lack of understanding of academic conventions or academic writing skills. Please see the reference management website for further support.


In the case of collusion, the students involved would be deliberately trying to deceive the tutor who is marking their work. This could happen in a number of ways: 


If you let another student copy your work and they then present the work as their own, or if another student allows you to copy their work and you then present the work as your own, both students could be accused of plagiarism. 

Group work 

It’s important to understand the assessment guidelines before you undertake any group work. If these are unclear, then ask your tutor to clarify. Make sure you understand whether the written report is to be submitted as individual submissions or as a joint piece of work.  

For example, you might be expected to do a piece of work collaboratively which includes discussing a problem but then each group member is expected to write and submit their own report based on the collaborative work.  

Where plagiarism of any type is detected in group work, all members of that group may have collective responsibility for the integrity of work submitted and may be liable for penalties.  

Open book exams 

If you take remote exams you will be required to sign an honour code or code of practice statement declaring that you have not been helped by others or have communicated with other students during the exam unless authorised to do so. Doing this constitutes academic misconduct in the form of cheating and is a type of collusion, i.e. plagiarism. 

Misinterpreting common knowledge

Misinterpreting common knowledge is a type of plagiarism caused by incorrectly believing something is commonly known and therefore not referencing it. Common knowledge does not need to be cited and referenced, however people often get confused over what constitutes common knowledge. 

If a fact is well known and can be easily verified by consulting standard textbooks or encyclopaedias it could be classed as common knowledge. 

You can also have common knowledge within a specialist subject area, but you need to be clear about what constitutes common knowledge in different subjects, as it can vary greatly. Something that is common knowledge to an engineer may not be common knowledge to a doctor. Also, common knowledge changes over time.  

If you are not sure if something is common knowledge it is best to provide a reference for it. You could also ask your tutor’s opinion. 

As you become more familiar with your subject area you will develop a better understanding of what constitutes common knowledge in your subject field as you will see what other researchers do and do not reference. 

Contract cheating

Contract cheating is one of the most serious plagiarism offences/academic misconduct offences as it is premeditated and involves a high degree of intention to deceive. 

Contract cheating is when you buy work from an essay mill company or from another person and submit it as if it were your own work. Exchanging or trading work with your fellow students or impersonating somebody else to sit an exam on their behalf would also be considered contract cheating.   

There can be severe long and short-term consequences of using these services, such as leaving you with problematic knowledge gaps as you progress through your degree.  

The use of generative AI tools to write work which is then submitted for assessment can also be considered a form of contract cheating, as the tool is generating the content, and you are not submitting your own original work. You should always consult department-specific guidelines for use of these tools for assessed work, and apply critical thinking skills with the support of your tutor or subject librarian. 


Self-plagiarism involves re-using your own previously written work or data in a new piece of work such as an assignment, journal article, conference paper, dissertation or thesis and not referencing it. You must always reference your sources, even if you are referencing your own work. 

  • If you use material from a previous assignment you must reference it appropriately 
  • You must never re-use a piece of work you have already submitted 
  • If re-sitting a course do not submit the same piece of work 

For further guidance, consult with your tutor. 

Plagiarism awareness for you


The Library provides Plagiarism Awareness courses delivered as part of your taught course. In the Faculty of Medicine, MBBS students receive formal instruction in year 1 and year 4.

In the Faculties of Engineering and Natural Sciences, your department-specific course will be delivered via Blackboard.

In the Business School, you will have an online course and your subject librarian will provide Plagiarism Awareness instruction as part of your taught course.