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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 unacceptable at Birkbeck, as it interferes with the proper assessment of your academic ability. 

Another form of plagiarism is submitting work you previously submitted for another assignment. While this is obviously not the same as representing someone else’s ideas as your own, it is a form of self-plagiarism and is another form of cheating. If you want to rework a paper for an assignment, ask your lecture whether this is acceptable and then acknowledge your reworking in a preface. 

It is acceptable, in your work, to use the words and thoughts of another person or data that another person has gathered, but the borrowed material must not appear to be your creation. This includes essays, practical and research reports written by other students (including those from previous years), whether you have their permission or not. It also applies to both hard-copy and electronic material, such as internet documents. 

Recourse to the services of 'ghost-writing' agencies (for example in the preparation of essays or reports) or of outside word-processing agencies which offer 'correction/improvement of English' is strictly forbidden, and students who make use of the services of such agencies render themselves liable for an academic penalty.

Examples of plagiarism

Examples of plagiarism include:

  • copying someone else’s form of words 
  • paraphrasing another’s argument 
  • presenting someone else’s data or line of thinking. 

This final form of plagiarism - presenting someone else's data or line of thinking - may often be unintentional, caused by making notes from sources such as books or journals without also noting the source, and then repeating those notes in an essay without acknowledging that they are the data, words or ideas of someone else. Guard against this by keeping careful notes that distinguish between your own ideas and researched material and those you obtained from others - then acknowledge the source. 

Other examples of plagiarism

Another example of plagiarism is the verbatim copying of chunks of material from another source without acknowledgement, even when they are facts, because you are still borrowing the phrasing and the order and the idea that this is a correct and complete list. It is important to rephrase the ideas in your own words, to show that you understand them while still acknowledging the source. 

Help with avoiding plagiarism

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