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Plagiarism occurs when you present the written words or ideas of another writer as your own. These words or ideas may be from published sources or even from other students' work. Plagiarism is often described as 'stealing' the intellectual property of other writers, and this is not allowed at university.

Simply copying slabs of information or sentences from texts, even if the source of the information is referenced, is not an acceptable way of writing assignments. Instead, the words and the structure of your assignment should be your own. You should generally refer to other people's ideas in your own words as well.

You will only need to cite the views expressed in books and articles as a direct quote when:

  1. rephrasing the idea is not possible without altering an author's intended meaning, or
  2. when the idea has been expressed succinctly in subject-specific terminology.

Remember, you do not need to reference information that is regarded as common knowledge in the field - for example, information such as the fact that hard drives use magnetic technology for the permanent storage of data, or that there are two basic types of display screen technology (CRT and flat panel).

Often plagiarism occurs when students feel they can't write the idea as well as the original author wrote it, and so the exact words are copied. However, you must remember that the person marking your essay wants to know whether you understand the literature in the field. You can show this by expressing the ideas you identify in your readings in your own words, rather than just copying the words from the book or article.

Plagiarism usually occurs in two main forms:

  • using the words or ideas from a source and not indicating what that source is, or
  • using the exact words from a source, indicating what the source is, but not using quotation marks around the words borrowed.
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