The academic equivalent of buggering the bursar – a reference to the 1983 film Educating Rita for those who missed it – plagiarism is the ultimate sin of all University establishments. Follow these five tips to make sure you don't get thrown off your course.
Plagiarism is Plagiarism
Whether you plagiarise an entire essay, or just one sentence, plagiarism is plagiarism. If you copy an entire essay, but change the occasional word or sentence, this is plagiarism. Even if you copy an essay and change every single word in every sentence, you have still plagiarised someone else's work – the words may be different, but the structure and the arguments are not yours. Quite simply, any words which are not yours should be placed in quotation marks and referenced accordingly. Any ideas, which you've taken from someone else but re-worded, must also make clear where these ideas have come from.
Understand its Causes
Few students set out to plagiarise. When it happens, it's often because a student feels pressured into doing so, perhaps because they've missed most their lectures, not done any reading, can't access the right resources, lack the experience of writing formal essays, or don't have the language skills. If, for whatever reason, you have an essay due tomorrow and you've not started it and it's a choice between not doing it and cheating, just don't do it. Speak to your lecturer and ask, even plead, for an extension. If you need help, identify what help you need, and again speak to your lecturer, student support services at your University or some of your classmates.
Advice for EAL Students
Even the most accomplished student with English as an Additional Language (EAL) will find some aspects of academic writing difficult to master. The quickest way to learn is to read as much as possible, and not just academic texts, as this will teach you more than simply speaking English alone. Allow longer to draft essays and don't be disheartened if it takes more time to get the wording right. Many EAL students who plagiarise do so because of a lack of language skills, but remember, your first year doesn't usually count towards your final result, so you have at least a year to develop these skills.
Students commonly make errors when referencing their work, often not intending to plagiarise, but be aware that making such errors can also be interpreted as an attempt to pass someone else's ideas off as your own. It's really important to get referencing right – a series of blogs showing you how follows later in this series.
Scan for Plagiarism
Plagiarism scanners such as plagiarismchecker.net, the plagiarising-checker featured on this website, are a free and easy way to make sure your essay doesn't contain any plagiarism. With a database of over ten billion documents, it's worth doing a quick scan before you hand you work in, just to be certain.
Avoiding plagiarism at University is a must. The consequences for plagiarising are severe, and could get you thrown off your course completely. Don't risk it.