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Referencing and Plagiarism: Avoiding plagiarism

What is Plagiarism?

If you don't show clearly and fully the sources of your readings in your assessed work, you may be plagiarising. Across higher education, plagiarism is a serious academic offence. The QMU Assessment Regulations (section 25.1.2) define plagiarism as: "The presentation by an individual of another person's ideas or work (in any medium, published or unpublished) as though they were his or her own" (QMU 2014, p.31). However, in many cases plagiarism may be a result of a lack of understanding and confidence, rather than deliberate action by the student. But what does this really mean and how does it affect you as a student at QMU?

Examples of the most common types of plagiarism are provided below.

Why shouldn't I plagiarise?

By plagiarising you are failing to give credit for other people's work and failing yourself – if you are able to paraphrase and put other's ideas into your words, you are showing that you have grasped their ideas and gained a higher level of understanding.  

 By correctly referencing you are showing in your assignment the sources of your ideas and arguments. You are also demonstrating that you have studied the appropriate work and can present your own ideas (and those of others) in a coherent manner, in your own words.  

For guidance on the different forms of academic writing, please visit the Effective Learning Service  web page.

Presenting someone else's work as your own

You may find a sentence, a few paragraphs in an article, a chapter of a book, or text on a website that explains a key idea. The idea may be extremely well written - but you cannot copy the author's exact words and put them into your assessment without providing a reference to the source.

If you present an idea as your own and do not reference the source, this is plagiarism.

Don't forget that you must reference all other works that you refer to and use in your assignment, from wherever they are sourced, including:

  • Ideas, theories, strategies
  • Statistics, graphs, diagrams, data, charts
  • Speeches, plays, poems
  • Pictures, films
  • Computer programs

Sources may include: websites, online journals, books, printed journals and articles, newspapers (print or online), plays, tutors' notes, other students' work. They may be published or unpublished.

By correctly referencing sources, you are showing that you respect the original author's work and his/her right to credit for that work.

Self Plagiarism

You may find that you have submitted an assessment for one module earlier in your programme, which is very suitable for an assessment later in your programme. Often the assessment may be for different subject areas.

It may be tempting to do this but this is also plagiarism since you are expecting credit for the same piece of work.

It is acceptable to reference your earlier work. If you have any doubts please contact your tutor.

The QMU Assessment Regulations (section 22.3) state:

"Students are not permitted to substantially reproduce the same piece of course work for more than one assignment except where they are explicitly required to do so by the assignment specification" (QMU 2014, p. 28).

Examples of Plagiarism

The table below provides some examples of plagiarism and poor referencing. These examples are based on an original piece of text taken from Mennell (1996, p.17):

"Tastes in food, like tastes in music, literature or the visual arts, are socially shaped..."

Examples of what is and what isn't considered plagiarism
Example Is this plagiarism?

Example 1

Tastes in food, like tastes in music, literature or the visual arts, are socially shaped.

Yes, this is an example of plagiarism because:

There is no reference provided and the text is copied word for word from the original without any quotation marks.

Example 2

Tastes in food, like tastes in music, literature or the visual arts, are socially shaped (Mennell, 1996).


Although a reference is provided there is no reference to the page number. Furthermore, the text is still copied word for word from the original so quotation marks should have been used.

Example 3

Food tastes, like music tastes, and tastes in literature or the visual arts, are socially shaped (Mennell, 1996).


Although a reference is provided and the text has been changed a bit, it is still too close to the original to be considered an acceptable paraphrase. A paraphrase must be SUBSTANTIALLY different to the original.

Example 4      

Society helps to form fashions in food, as it also does in the visual arts, music and literature (Mennell, 1996).


A reference is provided and an acceptable paraphrase of the original has been made.

Example 5

"Tastes in food, like tastes in music, literature or the visual arts, are socially shaped" (Mennell 1996, p.17).


A reference has been provided, quotation marks have been used to show that the text has been copied from the original, and a page number has been given.


Copying someone else's work and changing a few words here and there

Copy Menu

It is very tempting to read a few sentences and change a few words and think that you have changed them sufficiently so that you do not need to state the source.

However, this counts as plagiarism and is not acceptable under QMU regulations.

Have a look at the section on paraphrasing for further information.

Unauthorised collaboration with another student

At QMU we encourage students to study and learn together because we know that the social dynamics can greatly enhance the breadth and depth of individual learning. In many assignments, you will be asked to collaborate with other students, to share ideas and work together, and submit a joint assignment. However, when working on individual assignments you must ensure that the work you submit is yours and not copied from someone else.

The University's Assessment Regulations (section 25.1.3) state:

"Academic collusion is deemed to be unacceptable where it involves the unauthorised and unattributed collaboration of students or others work resulting in plagiarism, which is against University discipline" (QMU 2014, p.31).

It is most important that you talk to your tutor if you are unsure about this. 

For further information on the University's policy on assessments, including plagiarism and academic dishonesty, visit the Quality at QMU Governance and Regulations web page.


  • Working in groups with other students can be difficult, particularly with regard to avoiding plagiarism. The Effective Learning Service provides a guide to group work and other helpful resources on their web page.
  • The University of Wolverhampton Students' Union have created an interesting video on collusion and other academic misconduct. You can view this helpful information on their web page: Wolverhampton University Students' Union - Academic Misconduct