Every student is expected to understand the rules regarding correct referencing.

Whenever you submit a piece of coursework, you agree to the following:

“I confirm that I understand what plagiarism is and have read and understood Section 10 of the Handbook of Academic Regulations. The work that I have submitted is entirely my own (unless authorised group work). Any work from other authors is duly referenced and acknowledged.”

See Part 3 Section 10 of our academic regulations for more details on plagiarism.

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is where a student either:

i) presents work for assessment which contains the unacknowledged published or unpublished words, thoughts, judgements, ideas, structures or images of some other person or persons. This includes material downloaded from electronic sources, and material sourced or contracted from a third party. (Section 10 Academic Regulations)

In academic writing a high premium is placed on original thought which uses and builds on the knowledge and ideas of others. You are expected to do your own thinking, and will be assigned work by your lecturers in order to analyse the ideas you have read about and to develop your own thoughts in reply to them.

When you conduct research for your own assignments, you will be relying on the citations and references provided by other authors in order to find material relevant to your topic. In the exact same way, when you are writing your own work, when you are the author, you will be responsible for providing your readers with a route back to the sources you used so that they can also follow the progression of ideas. Your work needs to be placed within the context of other related work; if you plagiarise this context will be lost.

Whenever you directly quote, paraphrase, or summarise someone else’s ideas, you have a responsibility to give due credit to that person for their work. And by crediting that person, through proper citing and referencing, you will enable your lecturer, and whoever else may read your work, to understand what led you to your conclusions and to see that you have researched both widely and thoroughly.

How to avoid plagiarism

There are two main types of plagiarism – intentional and unintentional. The easiest to avoid is intentional plagiarism. If you are tempted to ‘borrow’ someone else’s ideas (ie copying whole passages from a book, article, website, or a friend's assignment) without citing the author because you are short on time, stressed, or you do not fully understand the topic you are writing about, simply don’t do it. The consequences of plagiarism are much worse than handing in an assignment late or handing in a piece of work you are not 100% satisfied with. 

In many cases, plagiarism is unintentional and caused by a lack of organisation, carelessness, confusion, or a mix of all three. The bad news is that regardless of whether you intended to plagiarise or not you will still be held responsible for the work you hand in and the consequences will be the same. The good news is that there are two easy steps you can take to avoid unintentionally plagiarising:

  • understand what question you are trying to answer and what process you are entering into when you write an assignment and
  • use a methodical approach when planning and writing your assignments

What is self-plagiarism?

ii) presents for assessment work which that student has previously submitted for assessment as part of the same or another module or course, or at another institution. This is known as self-plagiarism, and relates to the principle that a student may not receive credit for the same piece of work more than once unless specifically required to resubmit work as a requirement of re-assessment. (Section 10 Academic Regulations)

Self-plagiarism is submitting, in whole or in part, work which has previously been submitted at the University of Westminster or elsewhere, without citing and referencing the earlier work. This includes re-using your own submitted work without citing and referencing.  It does not matter whether the work concerned is submitted in different years, for different courses or even for different degrees.

Some tips for avoiding self-plagiarism

  • Never submit the same assignment twice
  • Never use a part of one assignment in another assignment
  • If you are looking back at an old assignment for information you need again, make a brief note of the information beforehand and work from that note.
    • Do not copy and paste
    • Do not try to disguise the duplication by making minor changes

Assignments will almost certainly not require the same material presented in the same way at the same level - you will need to change the way you use the information:

  • Think about what is expected of your answer to the assignment you are doing now
  • Select only the information that is relevant and write it in a way that directly answers your new assignment – for example, you may need to:
    • synthesise it with material from other sources
    • explain or discuss particular aspects in more or less detail
    • show deeper levels of analysis or critical thinking write about the topic from a different perspective
    • adapt the material to fit your argument

If you do want to refer to something you have written elsewhere or even to put in a short quote from your own previous work, you must cite this correctly see below for further information on referencing your work.

How do I correctly reference my work?

There is a particular style and format that you’ll need to use when you reference your work and this may differ between courses. Check with your Course Leader the correct referencing style when you begin your studies.

Have a look at our Referencing your work page for more details and to download the Referencing Guide.

What sources should I acknowledge in my work?

You’ll need to reference all your sources. This includes academic books and journals, and any information you use from anywhere on the internet.

How we detect potential plagiarism

In line with other higher education institutions, the University employs text-matching software, such as Safe Assign and Turnitin, to help identify potential plagiarism in assignments. The software does not detect plagiarism per se but does highlight text similarities. Academic judgement will still be used to decide whether or not potential plagiarism exists in an assignment.

For more help on this topic, check the avoiding plagiarism tutorial (Blackboard log-in required).