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You plagiarise when you use knowledge that has been created elsewhere without indicating the source of that knowledge. To understand the meaning of plagiarism it may be useful to ask yourself the question: 'Whose knowledge is it?' or 'Who created it?'

The idea is not universally accepted but it is a very useful tool when you are grappling with what is acceptable academic practice.

Acceptable academic practice is associated with ideas about authorship, academic standards and academic integrity. In New Zealand high value is placed on full acknowledgement and referencing of the words and ideas of others. If you want to use information that you find elsewhere you must acknowledge where it came from.

It is very important to be aware of the rules about copyright and the use of information at Otago. These may differ from the rules at your previous place of study. If you break these rules you could be accused of plagiarism.

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is defined as:

  • Copying or paraphrasing another person's work and presenting it as your own.
  • Being party to someone else's plagiarism by letting them copy your work or helping them to copy the work of someone else without acknowledgement.
  • Using your own work multiple times without indicating the source. For example, resubmitting the same content when repeating a paper or submitting the same content in a different paper.

Plagiarism can be unintentional or intentional. Even if it is unintentional, it is still considered to be plagiarism.

Unintentional plagiarism may occur when:

  • A number of assignments are due at the same time and so you take less care
  • You have not planned for an assignment so run out of time to complete it
  • You did not make good notes from some of the sources for the assignment
  • You have poor study practices
  • You are feeling stressed for some other reason

Intentional plagiarism may be due to the factors listed above but by definition it is a deliberate act and you are aware of it. Therefore it is deemed dishonest and considered to be a more serious offence.

All students have a responsibility to be aware of acceptable academic practice in relation to the use of material prepared by others and are expected to take all steps reasonably necessary to ensure no breach of acceptable academic practice occurs. You should also be aware that plagiarism is easy to detect and the University has policies in place to deal with it.

How do I avoid plagiarism?

You can avoid plagiarism by adopting some simple but effective academic practices, such as:

Further information, including study guides and examples

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