Skip to main content

Plagiarism guidelines

Plagiarism is defined as the presentation of another person's thoughts or words or artefacts or other output in such a way that they could be assumed to be your own. In any form, plagiarism is an assessment offence at Birkbeck, as it interferes with the proper assessment of your academic ability. 

Examples of plagiarism

  • Copying and collusion
    • Copying the whole, or substantial parts of information (e.g. text, images) from a source (e.g. journal article, book, website, or any other source, both hard copy and online material) without proper acknowledgement. Proper acknowledgement includes the use of quotation marks around copied text, an in-text citation and a reference. 
    • This also includes copying from your peers (even with their permission), and submitting it as your own work. Unless otherwise advised, all submitted assessments should be your work alone. 
  • Purchasing ready-made assessments
    • Paying someone else to do your assessments is also considered plagiarism, and is a very serious assessment offence. 
  • Self-plagiarism
    • A special case of plagiarism is submitting work you previously submitted for another assignment. This is also considered an assessment offence, as you have already received feedback on that work (unlike your peers). 
    • This includes assessments you have submitted in previous years, on different modules, or in previous universities. Birkbeck uses Turnitin (used by the majority of UK universities) to check, which usually detects these types of plagiarism.
    • If you want to rework a paper for an assignment, ask your lecturer whether this is acceptable, and if yes, whether and how you should acknowledge your reworking.

The most common (frequently unintentional) types of plagiarism committed by students include: 

  • Paraphrasing without acknowledgement
    • Paraphrasing is when you take someone else's work or ideas and change it into your own words, keeping the essential meaning, form and/or progression of ideas. You must include a citation and reference, when you paraphrase, indicating the source of the information. 
    • This often occurs when students take notes without recording the source so be careful in distinguishing between your own ideas and researched material when this by keeping careful notes that distinguish between your own ideas and those you obtained from others, always acknowledge the source.
  • Inadequate paraphrasing
    • This occurs when only small changes relating to word or phrase order and word replacement are made, but the overall structure of the text is maintained. These types of superficial changes are not enough to avoid plagiarising. 
    • To avoid plagiarism, you must fully rewrite the source text in your own words.  
  • Inaccurate or incomplete citing and referencing
    • You must cite and reference all the sources you refer to in your assessment, using the appropriate citing and referencing style, which is dependent on your academic discipline (e.g. APA, Harvard, MHRA, Chicago, OSCOLA, Vancouver etc.)
    • Students often provide inaccurate or incomplete citations and references as a result of not understanding their citing and referencing style. 
    • Your department should provide you with information on what style your discipline uses, and how to apply it. 

Help with avoiding plagiarism

There are a number of ways to learn more about plagiarism and how to avoid it: