Referencing, Plagiarism, and Good Academic Practice

To avoid being accused of plagiarism, it’s important you learn to reference correctly, and that you adhere to the guidelines of good academic practice.

Referencing is indicating in your work where you have used material that did not originate with you. This might include factual information, data, images, opinion, direct quotation, or when you summarise or paraphrase the work of other people.

Many academic assignments measure your ability to understand, analyse and evaluate the work of others. Referencing is a crucial part of this as it informs the reader of the texts you have consulted during research, and makes it clear to the reader which work did not originate with you.

Failing to indicate that some of your assignment is a quote of or derived from other people’s work would be plagiarism.

The University has produced guides that will help you reference accurately when using the Harvard style: Referencing Guides.

This guide is the established norm for all subjects where Harvard referencing is used. On the minority of courses where other referencing styles are used, (e.g. Vancouver, Numeric, APA), you should carry on using those as instructed by your lecturers.

You may also find Study Skill’s Referencing section useful.

Plagiarism is a form of academic misconduct. If you are caught plagiarising, whether you did so knowingly or inadvertently, you will be invited to meetings, possibly subjected to disciplinary procedures and probably experience stress. In serious cases, there can be an impact on your academic record. Make sure you are aware of what good academic practice entails (see lower down this page).

What is Plagiarism?

This is the definition used by universities:

"Plagiarism is passing off someone else's work, whether intentionally or unintentionally, as your own for your own benefit."

Plagiarism means giving the impression that a piece of work originated with you when it didn’t, or at least some of it didn’t. If you present an idea, you are automatically giving the impression that it’s your work, unless you give due credit.


Colluding with another person on work that’s meant to be your own is also plagiarism. For example, you could be accused of collusion if you lend one of your assignments to a fellow student, especially if they put some of it into their own assignment. Even if they paraphrase your work, it is possible to detect collusion. Think very carefully before lending your work to others.

Another form of collusion occurs when you are working on a team project and have to write an essay about it afterwards. The essays are often required to be individual work, and even if you shared the workload of your project, handing in essays with shared sections can get you into trouble, unless your lecturer explicitly permits it. The essay is your chance to show that you actively took part in the team project and every part of the process. If you have any doubts or questions, talk to your lecturer. They should be able to advise you.

Detecting plagiarism

There are ‘e-tools’ to check whether a piece of work has been published or submitted for assessment already. Work can be checked online in moments, through the Turnitin tool. Visit the Turnitin Guide for more information.

Turnitin has integrated with Blackboard. Lecturers can post a piece of your writing, and in a short time, he/she (or you, if permitted by your lecturers) receives an originality report that highlights how much of your text matches something that’s already published somewhere, or which has been written by another student. In many cases, it’s not even necessary to use a special database to detect plagiarism. Some lecturers have unearthed copying by simply typing a sentence into Google. There are lots of ways to detect plagiarism, and lecturers use them regularly.

What happens if plagiarism or other academic misconduct is suspected?

Once a concern has been raised about a student’s work, and it is agreed that there is a case to look into, the student will be invited to a meeting with their faculty to discuss the issue. At the meeting, the student will meet with a panel, made up of two members of staff from their faculty. Both members of the panel will be independent from the student and their course. Also present at the meeting will be the member of staff who raised the concern about the student’s work.

The panel will ask the member of staff who raised the concern about the student’s work to present their case and explain why the case has been referred to the panel. The panel will then ask questions to the member of staff, if appropriate. The student will then present their case and the panel will ask questions of the student. Both the member of staff who raised the concern and the student may be given an opportunity to sum up if the panel feels that they require this.

The member of staff who raised the concern and the student will then be asked to leave the room whilst the panel have a private discussion about whether they feel that academic misconduct has taken place and if applicable which penalty they think would be appropriate. The member of staff who raised the concern and the student will then both be asked to return to the meeting. The student will then be informed of the panel’s decision as to whether academic misconduct took place. There are three potential outcomes:

  1. the panel and the student agree that academic misconduct did not take place (in this case no further action is taken)
  2. the panel and the student agree that academic misconduct did take place (in this case the panel will impose one of the penalties available to them)
  3. the panel and the student disagree on whether academic misconduct took place (in this case the student’s case is referred to the University committee, the Academic Misconduct Panel)

In most cases, the outcome will be given to the student at the end of the meeting.

If a student’s case is referred to the Academic Misconduct Panel for consideration the panel hearing the case will be made up of a chair, a member of staff from another faculty and the Students’ Union President (or nominee). The meeting will be run in the same way as the faculty meeting, however, the outcome will be provided to the student in writing up to 5 working days after the meeting.

Penalties range from a written warning or rewriting the piece of work to failure and discontinuation of the whole course. Potentially as part of the penalty, a student may be referred to Student Development and Study Skills Service for a referencing session. This is in the main a means of support to help students with their studies. However, it is important that students do attend the session because if they do not their case can be referred back to the chair of the panel and a higher penalty could be imposed.

Students can contact the Students’ Union for representation and support during this process.

A key element of academic integrity is understanding good academic practice in written work and creative practice. Understanding how to use the work of other scholars, including your peers, to develop your own insights into a subject is an important professional skill.

You will be expected to follow professional academic conventions. Within the international academic community it is never acceptable to use the words of others or their creative output (whether published or unpublished, including material from the internet) without explicit acknowledgement. To do so would not be seen as a mark of respect but rather as plagiarism.

Main principles

  • When you take notes from sources, make sure you do so in ways which identify where you are recording your own observations based on the document you are reading, where you are paraphrasing and where you are recording direct quotations. This will be particularly important if you are taking notes over a longer period and then reviewing them later. For more information on how to give credit to others’ work that influences your own, see the Guide to Referencing
  • Learn to plan your study time effectively, be aware of deadlines and leave plenty of time for writing to avoid the need to take ‘short cuts’ which could lead to bad academic practice.
  • To demonstrate your knowledge and ability effectively in assignments, you need to ensure that you address the question you are asked. Including large amounts of acknowledged pasted material, or over-quotation from external sources, is likely to detract from the quality and originality of the work and is therefore unlikely to secure good marks.
  • The purpose of assessment is to enable you to develop and demonstrate your own knowledge and understanding of the learning outcomes of your course. It is entirely appropriate that your work should be informed by, and refer to, the work of others in the field or to discussions with your peers, tutor or supervisor. However, such contributions must always be acknowledged in accordance with conventions appropriate to the discipline. This requires more than a mention of a source in a bibliography which may be a practice you are used to at Faculty or college. You should acknowledge each instance of another person’s ideas, artworks or words using the appropriate referencing conventions. It is important to make clear which are your words, ideas or artworks and which have been taken from others.
  • It is often helpful to discuss ideas and approaches to your work with your peers and this is a good way to help you think through your own ideas. However, work submitted for assessment should always be entirely your own except where clearly specified otherwise in the instructions of the assignment. In some instances working in groups will be required, and there may be occasions when work is submitted from the whole group rather than individuals. In these instances, the instructions will make it clear how individual contributions to the joint work should be indentified and will be assessed. If you are in any doubt, check with the person setting the assignment. If you have worked with others you should make sure that you acknowledge this in any declaration you make (see below).
  • When you submit a piece of coursework you will be asked to declare (e.g. through use of a signed declaration or ticked box for electronic submission) that you are aware of the requirements of good academic practice and the potential penalties for any breaches.
  • Attendance is important to your chances to succeed academically.