Avoiding Plagiarism

What is plagiarism? Plagiarism is:

  • Passing off someone else's words as your own
  • Passing off someone else's ideas as your own
  • Rewording a source but retaining the original ideas it contains, without giving due credit
  • Failing to put a quote in quotation marks
  • Copying large sections of someone else's words or ideas, even if credit is given or quotation marks are used
  • Giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation for example, citing a source that the real author has found and used, that you do not have a copy of
  • Changing the words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit.

These are just examples and are not exhaustive.

Let's look at these examples in more detail, using a journal as an example.

Our chosen journal is: Baksi, C 'War Crimes Tribunals: Battle Stations, Law Society Gazette' 7 September 2006 LS Gaz, 7 Sep, 22.

Here's our extract:

"The United Nations (UN) tribunals prosecuting accused war criminals may have been somewhat overshadowed by coverage of the trial of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Even so, they have blazed a trail, setting groundbreaking precedents in the arena of international criminal and humanitarian law, and providing lawyers with the opportunity to work on cases that have made history.

Among their notable achievements, they have handed down the world's first conviction for genocide, and indicted a head of state -- the late Slobodan Milosevic -- on war crimes charges.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was the first to be established -- set up in May 2003 by the UN Security Council to try those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law during the war in the early 1990s.

Its only predecessors were the Tokyo and Nuremberg tribunals set up by the allies at the end of World War Two.

Then came the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which was created in 1994 and based in Arusha, Tanzania, to prosecute those responsible for genocide and other atrocities committed in 1994.

These ad hoc tribunals gave impetus to the formation of the International Criminal Court (ICC), established in 2002.

Based in the Netherlands, it is the first permanent independent treaty-based international criminal court.

It will try those accused of the most serious offences of international concern, where a national court is unable or unwilling to do so.

No trials have taken place before the ICC, but the prosecutor has begun investigations into three situations in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan, and the first arrest warrants have been issued in relation to Uganda.

Indeed, last week the ICC announced that it had formally charged Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, the former Congo militia leader, with crimes relating to enlisting child soldiers".


We're first going to look at the ways in which a student might use the material which could lead to an accusation of plagiarism.

Passing off someone else's words as your own...


A student writes:

The United Nations tribunals have blazed a trial, setting groundbreaking precedents in the arena of international criminal and humanitarian law, and providing lawyers with the opportunity to work on cases that have made history.

They have had many notable achievements, including handing down the world's first conviction for genocide, and indicting a head of state - the late Slobodan Milosevic - on war crime charges.

This is a relatively straightforward case of plagiarism.

It's barely paraphrased and gives no credit to Baksi's words OR ideas.

ADVICE! To avoid such a faux pas, you need to either quote EXACTLY from Baksi's journal in "quotation marks" and give credit to Baksi at the end, OR paraphrase the sentence properly (i.e. don't use so many of Baksi's words but phrase it a different way) and STILL give credit to Baksi because this sentence is all about her ideas - not yours!

Passing off someone else's ideas as your own...

...or rewording a source but retaining the original ideas it contains, without giving due credit

Our student writes: The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was created in '94 to bring to trial those that cause the genocide and similar atrocities in 1994.

It was one of several ad hoc tribunals that gave impetus to the formation of the ICC, the first independent and permanent treaty-based international criminal court.

The Court's purpose is to bring to trial those who have been accused of the most serious of offences that are of relevance to the international community.


This is less straightforward.

The student hasn't given any credit to Baksi but then, there are barely any matching words.

Unfortunately, this is still plagiarism - because all of the ideas are Baksi's.

The student has just reworded them almost entirely but this content cannot be attributed to the student's general knowledge - it is very clear that they read and reworded the Baksi article, and simply changed a few of the words around.

Using someone's ideas is usually even LESS obvious.

You might be able to talk about a concept without using one single word from the original author but if you use their original idea, you MUST give them credit.

ADVICE! To avoid this kind of plagiarism, you need to give credit to your source - in this case, Baksi's journal.

It's as simple as that!

Failing to put a quote in quotation marks

The student writes: There have never been any trials before the ICC, but the prosecutor has begun investigations into three situations in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan, and the first arrest warrants have been issued in relation to Uganda.

Indeed, last week the ICC announced that it had formally charged Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, the former Congo militia leader, with crimes relating to enlisting child soldiers (Baksi, 2006).


Well, how can THIS be plagiarism? The student has, after all, given Baksi her due credit! Unfortunately, what the student has not understood, is that nearly all of his paragraph is Baksi's own words.

It's a direct quotation.

So he can't just stick a reference on the end to Baksi.

ADVICE! To avoid this kind of plagiarism, you need to put Baksi's words in "quotation marks" OR paraphrase them so your words are substantially different, and then give her credit afterwards

Copying large sections of someone else's words or ideas, even if credit is given or quotation marks are used

The student writes....

The UN tribunals that prosecuted war criminals "may have been somewhat overshadowed by coverage of the trial of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Even so, they have blazed a trail, setting groundbreaking precedents in the arena of international criminal and humanitarian law, and providing lawyers with the opportunity to work on cases that have made history.

Among their notable achievements, they have handed down the world's first conviction for genocide, and indicted a head of state -- the late Slobodan Milosevic -- on war crimes charges" (Baksi, 2007).

The ICTY was "the first to be established -- set up in May 2003 by the UN Security Council to try those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law during the war in the early 1990s.

Its only predecessors were the Tokyo and Nuremberg tribunals set up by the allies at the end of World War Two.

Then came the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which was created in 1994 and based in Arusha, Tanzania, to prosecute those responsible for genocide and other atrocities committed in 1994" (Baksi, 2007).


These "ad hoc tribunals gave impetus to the formation of the International Criminal Court (ICC), established in 2002.

Based in the Netherlands, it is the first permanent independent treaty-based international criminal court.

It will try those accused of the most serious offences of international concern, where a national court is unable or unwilling to do so.

No trials have taken place before the ICC, but the prosecutor has begun investigations into three situations in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan, and the first arrest warrants have been issued in relation to Uganda.

Indeed, last week the ICC announced that it had formally charged Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, the former Congo militia leader, with crimes relating to enlisting child soldiers" (Baksi, 2007).


Certainly, everything above has been given proper reference to Baksi.

So does this pass the plagiarism test? NO! There's far too much of Baksi's work.

Where's the student's work? There's no thinking, no analysis - nothing from the student's mind that he has contributed at all.

So this is plagiarism because of the 300 words or so that the student has submitted, nearly 300 of them are Baksi's! ADVICE! To avoid this kind of plagiarism, don't rely to heavily on other people's material.

Remember, the idea of your university setting essays is to test how well YOU understand the material that has been given to you.

Simply relaying other people's ideas or words does not show your tutor that you understand the course.

Giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation...


...for example, citing a source that the real author has found and used, that you do not have a copy of.

Let's say that last month, Ronald did an article that discussed Baksi's article on War Crimes.

Ronald's article is very good - he talks in-depth about Baksi's ideas and quotes from Baksi extensively.

Our student has never read the Baksi article but read Ronald's article before he wrote his essay.

So how would it be if our student now quoted from Baksi? There have never been any trials before the ICC, but the prosecutor has begun investigations into three situations in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan, and the first arrest warrants have been issued in relation to Uganda.

Indeed, last week the ICC announced that it had formally charged Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, the former Congo militia leader, with crimes relating to enlisting child soldiers (Baksi, 2006).

This is a form of plagiarism.

The student is cheating! He never read the Baksi article and in fact, all the hard work of reading and analysing Baksi, and picking out the most salient points is done by Ronald.

Why should the student take credit? ADVICE! To avoid this kind of plagiarism, make sure you give the TRUE source of all your material.

The student should have cited Ronald, although could quite properly cite "Baksi, 2007 ..

cited in Ronald ..

XXXX" etc.

Changing the words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit

Our student has worked out that if he recounts word for word what Baksi says, but changes all the words, nobody - not even a plagiarism scanner - will be able to tell that the ideas are not his own.

He writes: The ICC was formed in 2002 and is based in Holland.

It is the premier conclusive criminal court for the international community that is established on a treaty, and will deal with people to be tried for very grave offences concerning the international community, where a domestic court will not, or does not want to, try them.


A few comments should be made about this.

Firstly, it is plagiarism, once again.

The ideas are Baksi's, not our student's.

Secondly, don't assume a plagiarism scanner won't work this out.

Many university scanners use synonym detection which looks for matches with words that have the same meaning.

So you can reword all you like but the scanner still knows where you're getting your material from and will flag your work for plagiarism.

ADVICE! To avoid this kind of plagiarism, just give credit to the source of the material.

You've paraphrased it fully - and so if you also give your own analysis, there is nothing wrong with using the idea in your work.

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