Plagiarism | University of Oxford
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Plagiarism

'Plagiarism' is defined as the copying or paraphrasing of other people's work or ideas into your own work without full acknowledgment. All published and unpublished material, whether in manuscript, printed or electronic form, is covered by this definition. 'Collusion' is another form of plagiarism involving the unauthorised collaboration of students or other individuals in a piece of work.

Detailed information on plagiarism, from which the guidance here is excerpted, is available via the Student Gateway.

The documents that candidates are required to provide to support their applications for graduate study, such as the statement of purpose, research proposal and samples of written work, form the basis of an assessment of their academic abilities; it is essential that such documents are entirely the applicant's own work (unless clearly indicated otherwise) and are therefore free of plagiarism, in order to reflect the candidate's own knowledge and skill. Plagiarism is also a breach of academic integrity, and it is a principle of intellectual honesty that all members of the academic community should acknowledge their debt to the originators of the ideas, words, and data which form the basis for their own work.

In some cases departments may screen the written work, research proposals or supporting statements submitted by their applicants for plagiarism using a plagiarism-detection system. This system produces a matching report that highlights any areas of significant similarity between submitted work and other published documents. The matching report will then be reviewed by members of the department, including academics with specialist knowledge of the subject area in question and, in some cases, the applicant’s academic background.

Candidates should consider the University's guidance on plagiarism carefully in selecting and preparing supporting materials for an application. For reference, common forms of plagiarism include the following.

Verbatim quotation without clear acknowledgement

Quotations must always be identified as such by the use of either quotation marks or indentation, with adequate citation. It must always be apparent to the reader which parts are your own, independent work and where you have drawn on someone else's ideas and language.

Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing the work of others by altering a few words and changing their order or by closely following the structure of their argument, is plagiarism because you are deriving your words and ideas from their work without giving due acknowledgement.

Even if you include a reference to the original author in your own text you are still creating a misleading impression that the paraphrased wording is entirely your own. It is better to write a brief summary of the author’s overall argument in your own words than to paraphrase particular sections of his or her writing.

This will ensure you have a genuine grasp of the argument and will avoid the difficulty of paraphrasing without plagiarising.  

Cutting and pasting from online sources

Information derived from the internet must be adequately referenced and included in the bibliography. It is important to carefully evaluate all material found on the internet, as it is less likely to have been through the same process of scholarly peer review as published sources.  

Collusion

This can involve unauthorised collaboration between students, failure to attribute assistance received, or failure to follow precisely regulations on group work projects. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are entirely clear about the extent of collaboration permitted, and which parts of the work must be your own. 

Inaccurate citation

It is important to cite correctly, according to the conventions of your discipline. Additionally, you should not include anything in a footnote or bibliography that you have not actually consulted. If you cannot gain access to a primary source you must make it clear in your citation that your knowledge of the work has been derived from a secondary text.

Failure to acknowledge

You must clearly acknowledge all assistance which has contributed to the production of your work, such as advice from fellow students, laboratory technicians, and other external sources. This need not apply to the assistance provided by your tutor or supervisor, nor to ordinary proofreading, but it is necessary to acknowledge other guidance which leads to substantive changes of content or approach.