Forms of Plagiarism: Copying

Learn More about the Rights and Wrongs of Copying

To copy is to use the same (or very similar) words in the same (or very similar) order that you found in the work of another student, or in a book/journal, or on the Web etc.  To make small changes is still copying.  An approximate copy is still a copy.  If you do not acknowledge in your work that you have copied a phrase, a sentence, or a section, and where from, then you are cheating.  An approximate copy, unacknowledged, is still cheating.  Changing a few words does not make it OK. Changing a lot of words makes it a paraphrase, but even a paraphrase must be referenced and the source acknowledged.


When is it legitimate to copy?


It is OK to copy when:

  1. You are making notes from a book, journal, web page or lecture. But make sure that it is recorded as a copy (eg put quotation marks around it in your notes). Also record the source with page numbers, the web address, or the lecturer's name and date. Then, if you use it in a piece of work, you can provide the necessary reference.

  2. This is VERY important. Otherwise, you may later think that your notes are in your own words when they are not, and inadvertently pass off a quotation as your own. You are likely to be penalised for using such a copy without acknowledgement, even if it was not deliberate. And if you forget to record the source, you will not be able to use it, because a quotation (or paraphrase) without a precise reference is not permissible in academic work.

  3. You do not seek to pretend that the copy is your own work. Exact copies must have quotation marks and a reference If you copy the ideas or a section of text in your own words, it becomes a paraphrase, and does not require quotation marks but must still have a reference, including page number(s).