What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is one type of academic dishonesty. (Other types of academic dishonesty include cheating in exams and ‘recycling’ assignments – i.e. submitting the same paper for more than one unit of study.) Plagiarism is using someone else’s work as if it were your own work.

Even if you do this unintentionally, this may still be considered ‘negligent plagiarism’ by the University of Sydney. There are penalties for plagiarism which can include failing the assessment, failing the unit of study or being suspended or expelled from the university. (See the link on this page to the plagiarism policy & by-law.)

Plagiarism can be either using someone else’s ideas or using someone else’s words as if they were your own. Examples of plagiarism include:

  • Copying another student’s ideas or words
  • Paying someone to do your work or buying an essay
  • Using published work without acknowledging it
  • Using published work and acknowledging it, but without showing when the words are not your own (e.g. no quotation marks)

To avoid plagiarism, you need not only good intentions but also skills & knowledge. The main skills & knowledge you need are, first, the advanced language skills for paraphrasing or summarising appropriately; second, the planning skills to link information from sources with your own ideas; and finally, knowledge of the referencing conventions used in your school, department, faculty or discipline.

Your lecturer and/or your department, school, discipline or faculty should provide you with the name of the referencing convention you should use: e.g. American Psychological Association (APA), Harvard, Oxford. For each referencing convention there are books and many shorter guides available in the library and/or online. (See library links, on the right.)

For more on this topic, see the links on the right...