Plagiarism is another word for theft in the academic world. It is basically stealing other people’s ideas without acknowledging them. In this blog post we will look at what constitutes to plagiarism, why you may fall into it and what the consequences of it are.

Definition of plagiarism

We’ve given you the simple explanation i.e. to steal someone else’s ideas and pass it off as your own. It is important to note that this can be intentional or accidental. So, whether you wanted to actually cheat or you didn’t, you can potentially fall into plagiarism. How can it be done accidentally you ask? Well, not knowing the referencing conventions or even that there is a need to use your own words (different cultures see this differently) or simply not writing down the source when taking notes and so, when using the information in your writing you don’t have the source details to hand (in this case, do not use the information).

There are a couple of main pitfalls students can fall into and as a result plagiarise.

Firstly, by not mentioning where the information is from. So, they may take information from somewhere and they do reference appropriately. Every time a source is used, it must be referred to twice, once as a citation in the text and once in the reference list. Then, it must accurately follow the respective guidelines e.g. for the Harvard Referencing System you must mention the surname and year in the citation and the remaining details in the reference list (in a particular order). Failure to do so or even to do so inaccurately will result in plagiarism.


The second pitfall is not paraphrasing the information appropriately. This is when you rewrite the information found in sources into your own words. Failing to do this will also equate to plagiarism. This is a skill, which is more than just using a synonym or two. To truly complete this successfully, you must ensure you understand the text and if you’ve understood the text, writing it in your own words becomes easy.

Failure to sufficiently do either or both of the above intentionally or accidentally will result in plagiarism.

Finally, avoiding plagiarism goes beyond knowing how to reference and paraphrase as The University of Oxford (n.d.) mention “Avoiding plagiarism is not simply a matter of making sure your references are all correct, or changing enough words so the examiner will not notice your paraphrase; it is about deploying your academic skills to make your work as good as it can be.”

Why you may fall into plagiarism?

We have touched upon the reasons one may fall into it out of negligence i.e. they didn’t know that it was an offence, they didn’t know how to reference or they simply did not have the source details on them. This may be common for a foreign student studying the UK, coming from a country where plagiarism either isn’t a thing or it isn’t so severe. It may also be done negligently by someone who has been out of education for a long time and therefore they are unaware of plagiarism.


Will anyone intentionally plagiarise? This is a good question. The answer is a resounding yes. In my years of experience, I have seen an equal amount of intentional and reckless plagiarism. The main reason for intentionally cheating is that the student did not give themselves enough time to do the assignment, leading to panic and this led to them copying and pasting information last minute. This information could be from the internet, a book or even a friend. Moral of the story here is to give yourself enough time to write an assignment. Some also commit plagiarism because they think they cannot get caught and oh my have I seen these cases. The shock and horror on their faces is priceless and I hope the experience is a learning curve.

What are the consequences of plagiarism?

The consequence of plagiarism can range from failing the particular assignment to expulsion. UCL (n.d.) mention the following in their guideline “Depending on the Academic Misconduct that has taken place, the outcome may be a mark reduction, a mark of zero, failure of the module, or expulsion.” And this is true of most if not all institutes in the UK.

This means that you will either lose a lot of time or money. Quite possibly the two most precious commodities to man. Failing an assignment will mean that you have to redo that assignment to ensure you pass the module. In most cases, this will be the lightest punishment of plagiarism. So, this means that while you thought you are saving time, ironically you end up wasting a lot of time. Repeat offences usually lead to expulsion and this means a loss of money.


Takeaways from this post

  1. Work on your assignments as and when they are set. Do them gradually, so you don’t have to panic and rush last minute.
  2. When doing research always take notes of the source, so, you can cite and reference it later on.
  3. Learn how to reference and paraphrase well. Not only that, but enhance your academic writing skills to truly avoid plagiarism. Have you signed up for our 5 day email challenge on how to avoid plagiarism?
  4. If you cheat, you WILL get caught. Do not think you will get away with it, so, don’t try it.

Reference list:

UCL. (n.d.). Academic Integrity. [Online]. UCL. Available from: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/students/exams-and-assessments/academic-integrity#misconduct [Accessed 8 November 2019].

University of Oxford. (n.d.). Plagiarism. [Online]. University of Oxford. Available from: https://www.ox.ac.uk/students/academic/guidance/skills/plagiarism?wssl=1#[Accessed 7 November 2019].