The concise Oxford dictionary (6th edition)
Plagiarise - Take and use another person's (thoughts, writings, inventions) as one's own.
The Cambridge international dictionary of English
Plagiarise - To use (another person's idea or part of their work) and pretend that it is your own.
The Oxford advanced learner's dictionary
(5th edition) (1995)
Plagiarise - To take somebody else's ideas or words, and use them as if they were one's own.
The Oxford advanced learner's dictionary
(6th edition) (2000)
Plagiarise - To copy another person's words or work and pretend that they are your own.
Collins COBUILD English language dictionary
If you plagiarise someone else's ideas, or part of a piece of writing or music by someone else, you use it in your own work and pretend that you thought of it or created it.
Funk and Wagnalls' new standard dictionary (1921)
Plagiarism is the act of appropriating the ideas, writings, or inventions of another without due acknowledgement; specifically, the stealing of passages either for word or in substance, from the writings of another and publishing them as one's own.
Collin's pocket English dictionary (1987)
Plagiarism is the taking of ideas, writings, etc. from another and passing them off as one's own
University of Hertfordshire Policies and Regulations,
Plagiarism is the representation of another person's work as the student's own, either by extensive unacknowledged quotation, paraphrasing or direct copying.
MLA handbook for writers of research papers
To use another person's ideas or expressions in your writing without acknowledging the source is to plagiarise.
Plagiarism can happen for many reasons.
This is when you make the decision to steal someone else's work. For example, this could be either:
It can involve:
In all cases, if you do not do the work yourself, you are unlikely to learn from it. It is therefore not useful and a waste of your time. Do not do this. There are many ways your lecturer can check whether or not you have plagiarised. It is not worth the risk.
This is when you accidentally, through carelessness or lack of skill, use another person's words without acknowledging it. This can happen for several reasons:
Hamp-Lyons & Courter (1984, pp. 161-166) distinguish between four types of plagiarism:
While the Education Act of 1870 laid the groundwork for the provision of elementary or primary education for all children in England and Wales, it was not until the implementation of the 1944 Education Act that all girls and boys were entitled to a secondary education. Indeed, the decades immediately following the Second World War saw such a rapid increase in educational provision - in the USA, and many countries of Western and Eastern Europe, as well as in Britain - that some writers refer to the 'educational explosion' of the 1950s and 1960s. The minimum school-leaving age was extended from 14 to 15 years (in 1947) and raised to 16 (in 1971-2), but the proportion of people choosing to pursue their studies beyond this age hurtled upward; by 1971, 30 per cent of 17- year-olds were in full-time education in schools or colleges, compared with 2 per cent in 1902, 4 per cent in 1938, 18 per cent in 1961 and 22 per cent in 1966. The Robbins Report (1963) undermined the view that there was a finite pool of ability - a limited number of people who could benefit from advanced education - and provided ammunition for the expansion of higher education. This expansion took place through the establishment of new universities and growth of existing ones, as well as through the conversion of colleges into polytechnics which could offer degree courses, and the founding of the Open University. In 1970, 17.5 per cent of 18- year-olds entered further or higher education on a full-time basis (compared with 1.2 per cent in 1900, 2.7 per cent in 1938, 5.8 per cent in 1954, and 8.3 per cent in 1960); another three million people enrolled for part-time day classes, evening classes or sandwich courses.
Bilton, Bonnett, Jones, Stanworth, Sheard & Webster (1981, p. 381)
Outright copying is when a student uses exactly the same words as the original author without using quotation marks or saying where the words are from. For example:
While the Education Act of 1870 laid the groundwork for the provision of elementary or primary education for all children in England and Wales, it was not until the implementation of the 1944 Education Act that all girls and boys were entitled to a secondary education. Indeed, the decades immediately following the Second World War saw such a rapid increase in educational provision - in the USA, and many countries of Western and Eastern Europe, as well as in Britain - that some writers refer to the 'educational explosion' of the 1950s and 1960s.
Paraphrase plagiarism is changing some of the words and grammar but leaving most of the original text the same. For example:
The Education Act of 1870 put down the basis for providing primary education for every child in the United Kingdom. It was not, however, until the establishment of the 1944 Education Act that all male and female children were given the right to education at secondary school.
Patchwork plagiarism is when parts of the original author's words are used and connected together in a different way. For instance:
The right to elementary education for every child in England and Wales was established in the 1870 Education Act. However, the right to secondary education had to wait until the implementation of the 1944 Education Act. Following that act, in many countries of the world, there was such a rapid increase in educational provision that it was called the 'educational explosion' of the 1950s and 1960s.
Stealing an apt term is when a short phrase from the original text has been used in the students work, possibly because it is so good. For example:
In England and Wales, all 5 year all children have had the right to an education since 1870. This has not, however, been the case for 11 year olds, who had to wait until 1944 for a national system of secondary education. Once this system was established, though, secondary education expanded rapidly in the decades immediately following the Second World War.
See also Modern Language Association (2009, pp. 56-58).
Plagiarism is the representation of another person's work as your own.
There are three main reasons why you should not do this:
However, there is a difficult area here because, as a student, when you are doing assignments, you need to use what you have read or been taught in your lectures. In fact, this is an essential skill for every student. Spack (1988, p. 42) has pointed out that the most important skill a student can engage in is "the complex activity to write from other texts", which is "a major part of their academic experience." It is also difficult as Andrew Northedge points out in The good study guide (Northedge, 1990, p. 190)
You have to tread quite a fine line between being accused, on the one hand, of not making enough use of the writers you have been reading on the course, and, on the other, of having followed them too slavishly, to the point of plagiarising them. One of your early tasks as a student is to get a feel for how to strike the right balance.
Much of what you write will come from the ideas of other people (from the text books you read, the lectures and the seminars you attend, and your discussions with other students, etc.). This is what academic study is all about. However, the ideas and people that you refer to need to be made explicit by a system of referencing - if you use another person's ideas or words, you must say where they are from. This will prevent you being accused of plagiarism and, furrthermore, it will add support to your ideas and points of view.
You need to acknowledge the source of an idea unless it is common knowledge. It may be difficult to decide exactly what is common knowledge within your subject, but if your lecturer, in lectures or handouts, or your textbooks, do not acknowledge the source you can assume that it is common knowledge within your subject. For concepts and ideas which are generally accepted as valid within your specialism, there is no need to provide a reference. If in doubt, cite.
For help in taking notes from reading, see Taking Notes
For help in acknowledging sources see Citing sources
For help in writing a list of references, see Writing a reference list
Try these exercises: Exercise 1; Exercise 2; Exercise 3