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Plagiarism is making use of someones's work without any form of acknowledgement. It is taken very seriously by the University. Use these sections below to help you understand what plagiarism is and how to avoid it.


Academic Misconduct Short Course: Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism

The Library has created an online resource to help students learn more about plagiarism and how to avoid it. The resource is available on Brightspace.

What is plagiarism

Plagiarism is defined as “To take and use as one’s own the thoughts, writings or inventions of another” (Oxford English Dictionary).

The University define it as "the knowing or reckless presentation of another person’s work or ideas as one’s own, and includes the use of published or unpublished work without acknowledging the source" (Senate Regulations, 2020).

Plagiarism has two elements:

  1. taking another’s work; and
  2. using the work as your own.

If you take another’s work but do not use it as your own – because you reference it correctly – it is not plagiarism.

Three types of plagiarism have been identified:

  • Intra-corpal plagiarism – for example, from another student on the same course
  • Extra-corpal plagiarism – for example, from a web page, book or journal
  • Autoplagiarism – for example, submitting a previous essay or article as new work (Culwin and Lancaster, 2001).

Plagiarism can be either intentional or unintentional.

Intentional Plagiarism

This is what most people would think of as plagiarism - ‘copying’. Intentional plagiarism can be done for a variety of reasons:

  • to get higher marks
  • to save time and effort
  • because plagiarism is allowed (or even required) by students in some cultures.

Examples of intentional plagiarism include:

  • copying whole sentences or parts of text from a work and incorporating into you own work 
  • copying pieces of text from other works with minimal revision to the language and sentence structure
  • copying problem answers from a classmate
  • copying an essay from a student in a previous year
  • downloading an essay from an Internet essay bank
  • creating an essay by copying from three different textbooks and linking the parts together with your own words.

Unintentional Plagiarism

Students often do not recognise unintentional plagiarism as plagiarism (Carroll, 2002). However, it is taking another’s work and using as your own – because there is no acknowledgement of who has done the work. Unintentional plagiarism usually occurs because of a lack of understanding about what plagiarism is, and poor referencing, citing and quoting skills.

Examples of unintentional plagiarism include:

  • failing to indicate that some text is a direct quote (quotation marks should be used)
  • paraphrasing a chapter and including the source in the reference list, but not acknowledging the source in the text
  • composing a paragraph by joining sentences from a number of sources together and not acknowledging the sources in the text.


Plagiarism covers paraphrasing as well as word-for-word copying. Paraphrasing means employing information orginating from someone else, but using your own words with substantial changes in language, detail and organisation of the text.

If you make small changes (eg replacing a few verbs, changing an adjective, putting sentences in a different order) it could be considered intentional plagiarism. If you substantially change the language and organisation of the material – ie you re-write the whole thing in totally your own words – but do not include an acknowledgment in the text or the full reference in the reference list, then you are still committing plagiarism.

You are encouraged to paraphase the research of others in your work as a good academic practice, but you must always acknowledge your sources with a citation and reference, as soon as you start to introduce that information.

If you need help with developing your summarising and paraphrasing skills you can contact the Academic Skills (ASK) service, who can provide support on improving your academic writing.  


Collusion is a form of academic misconduct where students work together with the intention to deceive a third party. It is defined by the University as:

"...aiding or attempting to aid another member of the University in order to gain an unfair academic advantage by

i. The unauthorised and/or unacknowledged collaboration of persons in a piece of assessed work, and/or;

ii. Allowing a piece of assessed work to be copied by another person or persons" (Senate Regulation 6, 2020)

So if a classmate copies your work with your knowledge, then you have committed an offence, not just the student who copied you.

What is wrong with plagiarism?

Plagiarism is against University regulations and you may fail assessed work if you plagiarise (intentionally or unintentionally).

Plagiarism is cheating: it penalises honest students and degrades academic standards, degrees, and institutions.

Plagiarism is unfair: it means that those who conducted the work do not get credit for what they have done, the words they wrote, or the pictures they created.

Detection of plagiarism

Tutors and lecturers are able to tell if you have plagiarised, just by reading your work:

Everyone has their own writing style. It is obvious that a section of an assignment has been copied because of the changes in grammar, words used, punctuation, etc.

Your tutors are knowledgeable about their field and will know what has been written on the topic. They will be able to tell if you have copied from the books or articles on the reading list, or from other well known sources.

Tutors usually mark an entire class or year’s work – they will recognise if two assignments are similar. They are also likely to have marked the previous year’s work so may be able to tell if you have copied from someone in a different year.

In addition, the University uses WISEflow /Ouriginal to manage digital coursework submissions (thesis, dissertations and other course work). When you submit your work, Ouriginal checks it against documents in the database, from partner databases – books and journals etc. and material from the internet for similarities.

When the analysis is complete, a text-matching originality report is generated and forwarded to your teacher/supervisor. Please note that the student does not receive a copy of the originality report.

University policy on plagiarism and collusion

Plagiarism is a complex issue and official definitions of plagiarism and collusion can vary from one organisation to another. Staff and students should only refer to the policy at this University to ensure consistency and accuracy.

Information on how plagiarism and collusion are defined at Brunel can be found on the Quality Assurance pages, which refer to Senate Regulation 6.