Plagiarism - University of Leeds Guide

Plagiarism - what is it?

The University of Leeds uses a specific definition of plagiarism:

Plagiarism is defined as presenting someone else’s work as your own. Work means any intellectual output, and typically includes text, data, images, sound or performance.
(Office of Academic Appeals & Regulation 2005 )

student information icon What does this mean?

The issue of plagiarism arises with the submission of work for credit (marks that go towards a degree). There are 3 important features of the University’s definition:

  1. Plagiarism committed by accident is still considered an offence. i.e. lack of awareness is not a sufficient excuse.
  2. Plagiarism can occur in any type of work submitted for marks. So this is not just written assignments, but also presentations, computer code, art work, performances etc.
  3. Plagiarism is not about the stealing of ideas, words etc without the permission of the original author. It does not matter whether the original author has consented or not.

Avoiding plagiarism is about making it clear when the ideas, concepts, words of others have been used in or have influenced your submitted work. This is achieved by the use of referencing (see How do I not do it?).

Examples of plagiarism are:

staff information icon Key features of this definition

George MacDonald Ross (2005) offers this review of the key features of this definition:

"First - There is no reference to the student’s intentions. Inadvertent plagiarism due to poor note taking is still an academic offence, even though it may be treated more leniently than deliberate deception."

"Second - The use of the term ‘work’ means that the definition covers more than word-for-word copying. For example, it includes unacknowledged paraphrasing, since we assess students on the quality of their own intellectual products, and not on what they have taken from others. The University has, however, dropped any reference to ‘ideas’, because it is virtually impossible to prove that ideas have been borrowed, and this part of previous definitions has never been used."

"Third - There is no reference to whose work is presented as one’s own, or whether permission to use it has been granted. Plagiarism is quite distinct from theft of intellectual property, and copying from fellow students, from works which are out of copyright or open-source, or from essay banks is plagiarism, even if no-one’s rights have been breached."

"Subject specific needs - It is recognised that the definition may need to be adapted to the special circumstances of individual subject areas. For example, an hommage in the performing arts might be acceptable practice, even though the equivalent in other disciplines would not. Again, in many disciplines students are encouraged to get help from fellow students in checking the grammar and clarity of their essays; but this would be unacceptable in languages. Schools are free to qualify the University definition, provided they have the approval of the Committee on Applications."

So what is acceptable practice?

Take part in an on-line poll to compare your opinion with that of others at Leeds (NB - this poll was developed by Jude Carroll of Oxford Brookes University and is based upon an exercise in "Academic writing for graduate students" Swales and Feak, University of Michigan, 1993):

student information icon Student poll of perceptions of plagiarism

staff information icon Staff poll of perceptions of plagiarism

Reflect on your understanding of acceptable practice compared with the views of other students and staff at the University.

staff information icon Results of the student plagiarism poll

student information icon Results of the staff plagiarism poll

Next next - study of student perceptions?


Student quotes on plagiarism

“I don’t know where the line is drawn but if you read something and you do change a few words around I don’t know if its still plagiarism”

“Plagiarism I think is when you use other peoples’ facts and information and not referenced it to say it has come from a different source. You just like lifted it completely from somewhere else, a journal or a book or something ”

“Claiming someone else’s work as your own, so for example if you found some research on something and you said that you had done it, you had actually done the experiment and these were your results”