Referencing and avoiding plagiarism

The following guide has been created for you by the Student Learning Advisory Service. For more detailed guidance and to speak to one of our advisers, please book an appointment or join one of our workshops. Alternatively, have a look at our SkillBuilder skills videos.

Plagiarism statement and penalties

When submitting an assignment you have to sign a declaration stating that you have not plagiarised. In school or course handbooks you are warned not to plagiarise and informed of the penalties (failure or expulsion). Therefore, it is essential that you understand what plagiarism is and how to avoid it.

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is a form of cheating, at University it is an offence categorised as an 'academic misconduct'. There are two main forms of plagiarism:

  1. Copying words or ideas from published or unpublished material such as books, journals, internet sources, newspapers and brochures, without adequately referencing the sources of information in your assignment.
  2. Submitting work that has been partially or fully copied from or written by others e.g. friends or a commercial service – it will not matter whether this work is referenced or not, because it is an offence if you have submitted someone else's work or exam answers (partially or fully). This form of plagiarism is know as 'collusion'. You are also committing an offence if you share your work or exam answers with another student to submit.

How is plagiarism detected?

  1. Lecturers – Teaching staff are specialists in their disciplines and can tell when a student has either included words or ideas from an unacknowledged source, or produced work that does not appear to be entirely theirs.
  2. Turnitin (operated via Moodle) - University of Kent uses a software programme which matches students’ work against a database of previously submitted work from institutions worldwide, current and archived internet pages, and databases of journals and periodicals.  

What is referencing?

  • To reference is to acknowledge a source, which means stating who and where ideas and information have come from. it is important to distinguish your ideas from others in your assignment and make clear to the reader/viewer the different sources that you have referred to in your work.
  • Referencing is a method for acknowledging sources. Different disciplines use different referencing systems, it is important to find out which referencing system you are expected to follow from your subject tutors. For more information on referencing and referencing styles visit the Cite Them Right guide.

Why is referencing so important?

Apart from helping you to avoid plagiarism, referencing also:

  • Demonstrates how widely you have read for your assignment
  • Demonstrates what you have based your arguments on
  • Demonstrates that you can adhere to good academic practice
  • Helps you document your sources for future research

Always reference, regardless of how you use your sources

There are three ways you may incorporate research into your own work, understanding them provides additional safeguard against plagiarism:

  • Quoting - Quoting is when you use someone’s words exactly as they were written or spoken, we describe these words as a quotation, you need to put these into quotation marks in your work, and you must reference the source.
  • Paraphrasing - Paraphrasing is when you completely re-word someone’s words and ideas, we describe these words as a paraphrase, you must reference the source.
  • SummariseSummarising is when you provide an overview of the main points, themes, arguments or issues discussed in a piece of work, you must reference the source.

Additional help and advice

As well as the advice provided by your school and library, the Student Learning Advisory Service (SLAS) runs workshops on referencing and essay writing. There are also recorded videos as part of our SkillBuilder series on these topics, including, note-taking, which will answer many of your questions. You can also book one-to-one appointments both online and on campus to discuss referencing and your work.

Take the short Moodle module on Understanding & Avoiding Plagiarism module (DP1025). Additionally you may wish to use a Referencing management tool to help you keep on top of managing your sources as you research.

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