Feature: Plagiarism FAQs

By Harvinder Kaur Dharam Singh (harvinder@oum.edu.my)

Plagiarism is a serious offence which learners should avoid committing at all cost. Of course, to do so one would have to be acquainted with the concept in the fi rst place. The following frequently asked questions (FAQs) will hopefully steer you in the right direction:

  1. What is plagiarism?

    Plagiarism is the incorporation of another’s work into yours as though they were your own without acknowledging it. Plagiarism includes:

    • turning in someone else’s work as your own.
    • copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit.
    • failing to put a quotation in quotation marks and without giving acknowledgement.
    • giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation.
    • changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit.
    • copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not.

    Simply put, plagiarism is a form of cheating! Therefore, by committing plagiarism, you have violated copyright law.

  2. Does it matter how much was copied?

    Even if a small part of a work is plagiarised, it is still considered a copyright violation. The amount that was copied has bearing on the severity of the punishment.

  3. If I change the words, do I still have to cite the source?

    You must cite a source whenever you borrow ideas as well as words. Changing only the words of an original source is not suffi cient to prevent plagiarism.

  4. If I write something that somebody else had already written unknowingly, is this still considered plagiarism?

    While it is possible that you might write on the same topic as someone else, chances are that you will not have exactly the same ideas or express them in exactly the same way. It is highly unlikely that you would be accused of plagiarising a source you have never read. Be careful, however, of “accidentally” plagiarising from sources you have read and forgotten - if your ideas turn out to have been infl uenced by a source that you had read but failed to cite for any reason, you could be guilty of plagiarism.

  5. What are the punishments for plagiarism?

    Plagiarism may result in failure for the assignment and for the course, and sometimes in expulsion. Plagiarism that involves money, prizes or job placement constitutes a crime punishable in court. Employees have lost their jobs or been denied career advancement as a result of plagiarism.

  6. How can plagiarism be avoided?

    Citing sources, acknowledging that certain material has been borrowed, and providing your audience with the information necessary to fi nd that source are usually enough to prevent plagiarism. Topic 5 of the module Learning Skills for Open and Distance Learners provides more information on how to cite sources properly.

Adapted From: plagiarism.org

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I can educate my learners about the wrongfulness of plagiarism by:

setting a good example i.e. not committing plagiarism myself in the notes or materials that I give them
 
teaching them the correct way to quote references in their assignments
 
explaining to them the difference between original work and plagiarised work
 
severely penalising them whenever they hand in plagiarised work
 
 
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