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Plagiarism

Definition and Disciplinary Procedures

All University degrees and other academic awards are given in recognition of the candidate's personal achievement. Plagiarism (that is the action of including or copying in one's own work, without adequate acknowledgment, the work of another as if it were one's own) is academically fraudulent and an offence against University discipline. It is taken very seriously, at any stage, whether discovered before or after graduation. It will be investigated and dealt with appropriately by the University. If after investigation it is established that work submitted for assessment has been plagiarised to a significant extent, that fact will be permanently noted on a candidate's record. The University's policy, and a statement of the steps which it may take in cases where a candidate uses the work of another person or persons in his/her work, can be found at: 'Plagiarism and Cheating' (which is covered in Regulation 13.2 of the University's Undergraduate Assessment Regulations).

Every piece of work submitted must be accompanied by a cover sheet that includes a signed plagiarism statement.  Plagiarism is regarded as a serious matter - it is a form of cheating and intellectual theft - and may result in a mark of zero being given for the submitted work. Where there is evidence of an intention to deceive, further penalties may be imposed by the Board of Examiners (such as failure of the course). Serious cases of plagiarism will also be reported to the University's Discipline Committee.

Students will be informed by means of a letter if their coursework contains material that is problematic with regard to the rules on plagiarism, with clear cases of plagiarism being passed to the Executive Dean.  Details of the appeals procedure will be included with the warning letter sent out to students suspected of plagiarism.  The warning letter will be kept on file until the students graduation, at which point it will be destroyed.  The Director of the Undergraduate School will also keep master files of paperwork relating to suspected cases of plagiarism in regard to particular students, until such students graduate.

Avoiding Plagiarism: Guidelines for Students

Material you submit for assessment, such as your essays, must be your own work.  Attempting to pass off anyone else's work (including another student's work, published work or material from the Web) as your own is plagiarism.

Plagiarism may arise inadvertently. Good working practices can help you to avoid plagiarism and still allow you to draw upon published work; ideas from lectures and class discussions and (if appropriate) even on discussions with fellow students, as long as you make it clear that you are doing so. Because it is so important to avoid plagiarism, we are insisting that all material submitted for assessment contains on the first page a statement that the work submitted is your own or (in the case of joint project work), that the writing up is your own work.

To avoid plagiarism, bear the following points in mind.

Copying another student's work without acknowledgement is cheating and will be treated as such (note that allowing your work to be copied is also an offence). In joint projects, the work should be undertaken co-operatively, but reports on this work should always be written individually and independently. Where you are drawing on data collected or analysed by other students in your group, be careful to state that this is the case. Exchanging ideas with other students is encouraged, but if you draw upon someone else's ideas, you should always acknowledge that you are doing so. It is also wise to restrict the sharing of ideas to verbal discussion, particularly when you are working on the same essay topic or exercise. If you read someone else's work, or allow yours to be read, there is a serious risk of drifting into plagiarism. Genuine cases of deliberate copying are rare, and nearly all students learn how to draw the line between joint work and exchanging ideas, on the one hand, and plagiarism on the other.

Most cases of plagiarism arise through the misuse of published work. Lifting portions of text from a published source (including the Web) without acknowledgement is cheating. If you want to quote from a book, article, website, etc., put the material in quotation marks (or if it is a quote of more than about 40 words, put it in a separate, indented paragraph, as below)  and state its source. If you want to draw upon published material without directly quoting it, you must state the source - and put it into your own words. It is not enough simply to alter a few words, cut some out, and add some: that is still plagiarism. As an example, four direct quotes from a book are reproduced below:

Joanna Mack and Stewart Lansley, Poor Britain (London: Allen and Unwin, 1984), pp. 16-20, 49:

The concept of absolute poverty was developed during the last century. Though it is now associated with attempts to limit the needs of the poor, at the time, it was seen as a way of drawing attention to the needs of the poor. Seebohm Rowntree, in his classic study of poverty in York in 1899, defined primary poverty as an income insufficient to obtain the minimum necessaries for the maintenance of purely physical efficiency. … Although it is possible to draw up a minimum food level below which people die of starvation, and although such a concept still has widespread applicability in many of the poorest Third World countries, there would generally be a life expectancy greater than that of simply staving off immediate death. Living standards may be unquestionably low and life expectancy well below the industrialised world; even so, much of the deprivation suffered is not, strictly speaking, absolute poverty. … Poverty can be seen in terms of an enforced lack of socially perceived necessities. Peoples perceptions of necessities will vary from generation to generation, and from society to society. As such, poverty is relative. However, this approach makes no prior judgement about whether necessities should be confined to what are sometimes defined as subsistence items (food, clothing and heating) or whether they reflect the wide range of social activities that make up a persons standard of living. Nor does it make any prior judgement about the quality of life that constitutes this maximum. It seeks instead to find out what people themselves think.
The students essay read as follows:
The concept of absolute poverty was developed during the last century. Seebohm Rowntree, in his classic study of poverty in York in 1899, defined primary poverty as an income insufficient to obtain the minimum necessaries for the maintenance of purely physical efficiency. Although it is possible to draw up a minimum food level below which people die of starvation, there would generally be a life expectancy greater than that of simply staving off immediate death and much of the deprivation suffered is not, strictly speaking, absolute poverty. Poverty can be seen in terms of an enforced lack of socially perceived necessities. As such, poverty is relative. This approach makes no prior judgement about the quality of life that constitutes this maximum. It seeks instead to find out what people themselves think.

The students tutor would have good reason to comment as follows: You do not express yourself in your own words; the words you have used are identical with those used by Mack and Lansley and there is thus no way of knowing whether you have understood what you have written. This is a clear example of plagiarism. Although you may not have intended to deceive, inadvertent plagiarism is still plagiarism. Close paraphrasing of someone else's work is also plagiarism.

The best way to avoid slipping into inadvertent plagiarism is to take good notes. Either take notes of the gist of an argument in your own words, or carefully copy pertinent extracts verbatim and mark the quotations with inverted commas. In both cases, record details of the author, the title of book or article, publication details (for a book, place of publication, publisher, date; for a journal, journal title, volume and/or part number, date, page numbers for the start and the finish of article), and the page number(s) of the argument which has summarised or the quotation which has been recorded. If an idea comes from an unpublished source (such as a lecture or another student) record that fact in your notes.

If an author you are reading cites or quotes from work that seems relevant to your essay or project, be careful not to pretend that you've read that work when you haven't. Either get hold of the original and read the relevant parts of it, or make clear in your citations that you haven't. An example of how to do the latter is as follows:

There is an irreducible core of absolute deprivation in our idea of poverty which translates reports of starvation, malnutrition and visible hardship into a diagnosis of poverty without having to ascertain first the relative picture. The approach of relative deprivation supplements rather than competes with this concern with absolute dispossession. (Sen 1978 as quoted by Mack and Lansley, 1984: 20).

Only include a bibliographic entry for the source(s) you have actually consulted; in this example, Mack and Lansley.

Here is an example of how to acknowledge the work or ideas of other students:

 I am grateful to Jane Smith for suggesting the relevance here of public choice theory; the data in this table come from questionnaires distributed by all the members of our group; data entry was by John Brown and Anne Cox performed the Statview analysis.

Lectures can be cited as (lecture by Ian Dey to Social Policy and Society, 12 October 2005), and there is no need for a bibliographic entry. But we would normally expect you to take facts and quotations from the original sources, not lectures. There is no need to cite the textbooks or lectures from which you have learnt standard statistical techniques, or to give sources for widely-known facts: these are taken as public knowledge.

It is the students responsibility not to plagiarise, and not the responsibility of staff to identify it. All work submitted must be accompanied by a signed undertaking by the student that the work is entirely their own.

Learning to take notes well, and to acknowledge sources properly, is not merely a matter of avoiding plagiarism and consequent penalties: it is learning an important skill, one that is vital to the moral and ethical basis of academic life and of life in the world beyond the university. Appropriate acknowledgement and referencing will be rewarded positively in the marks you get. Staff are here to help you learn that skill. If you have any doubts, for example over when exchanging ideas starts to slip into plagiarism, or whether your referencing is adequate, please consult your course teachers, tutors or other members of staff.

For further advice on avoiding plagiarism, see: www.docs.sasg.ed.ac.uk/AcademicServices/Discipline/PlagiarismStudentGuidance.pdf

Duplication of Coursework (or 'self-plagiarism'): 

Students are not allowed to submit the same piece of work for more than one unit of assessment in their programme of study, nor are students allowed to submit for assessment work submitted at another institution.  This is not 'plagiarism' by the definition above, but it is academic misconduct nonetheless.  Each piece of writing submitted for assessment should be a substantially original piece of work produced specifically for that unit of assessment.  It may occasionally be appropriate to have quite similar short passages in separate pieces of assessment, conveying more general or background points the two pieces have in common, in which case the student should do their best to rephrase the material, and limit any verbatim passages to a few sentences (no more than 100 words).  Apart from this, students should avoid any duplication of previously submitted coursework.  As electronic submission of coursework and its processing through Turnitin (plagiarism detection software) becomes more standard, instances of self-duplication will be easily identified.  If it is found that a substantial portion of an essay duplicates work previously submitted for assessment, the work will be referred to the School Academic Misconduct Officer, penalties could be imposed on that piece of work, and the student could be subject to disciplinary action. 

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