What is plagiarism?

"The action or practice of taking someone else's work, idea, etc., and passing it off as one's own; literary theft" (Oxford English Dictionary online, 2006). To avoid plagiarizing and maintain your academic integrity, you should:

  • Give credit when you use other people's content in your academic work.
  • Make sure your assignments and exams are entirely your own original work, not someone else's.

Plagiarism at UVic

For details about academic expectations at UVic, see our resources on academic integrity.

The consequences of plagiarism range from a failing grade for an assignment or course to disciplinary probation or even expulsion from the university. UVic's policy on academic integrity provides more information about the consequences of plagiarism and other forms of cheating.

If you want to find out more about academic integrity, complete the self-paced resource Integrity Matters.

Types of plagiarism

Intentional plagiarism

  • Buying a paper in any form (online or from another student)
  • Hiring or letting someone do your assignment for you
  • Stealing or "borrowing" all or part of someone else's work (even if you have the author's permission)
  • Cobbling together a paper by copying and pasting from different sources without citing any of it
  • Submitting the same or a similar assignment more than once (it may have been original the first time, but the second time you're plagiarizing yourself!)
  • Selling papers or allowing others to copy your work is also subject to academic penalties

Plagiarism by improper citations

  • Copying something word for word but not using quote marks (even if you cite it, it's still plagiarism)
  • Using significant ideas and concepts from someone else without a citation-even if you put them into your own words (called paraphrasing), you need to give credit
  • Paraphrasing too closely by making only small changes to a passage, still retaining the same structure and words as the original (even if you cite it!)
  • Citing a source you didn't actually look at

Avoiding plagiarism

1. Take careful, organized notes

  • Clearly mark passages you copy word-for-word, those you paraphrase and those that are you own thoughts.

2. Know how and when to cite

  • Though citation rules vary for different style guides, the basic principles remain the same:

Use quote marks when using someone's exact phrasing, even if it's only a word or two, and cite it.

Paraphrase by putting a passage into your own words, making sure you change the sentence structure and other distinctions of the original, without misrepresenting its meaning

Compare your paraphrase to the source and check that you haven't accidentally kept significant words or phrases.

If an author has captured a concept perfectly, quote it, or paraphrase most of it but put quote marks around the few words that could not be said any other way.

Always cite paraphrases! You may not be using someone else's words, but you are using their ideas.

3. Printable handout

When else should I cite?

Cite when using words and ideas from any medium, online or print - for example:

  • Books, journal articles, newspapers and magazines
  • Theses and dissertations
  • Lectures and conference or technical reports
  • Letters, emails and chat transcripts
  • Maps and atlases
  • Brochures, advertisements and commercials
  • Songs, films and TV shows
  • Computer programs and code
  • Any internet or computer media, such as websites, YouTube videos, podcasts and PowerPoints
  • Personal interviews whether face to face, over the phone, or in writing

Cite when reprinting or reusing other people's:

  • photos, pictures and illustrations
  • diagrams, charts and tables
  • audio, video and other media clips

What don't I have to cite?

You don't need to cite:

  • your original thoughts, ideas and observations
  • your personal lived experiences
  • results or conclusions from your original experiments
  • photography, artwork, audio or video that you created
  • "common knowledge"-facts likely to be known by many people that can be found and verified in numerous general reference sources
  • folklore, urban legends and myths (but do cite others' interpretations or analyses of these)
  • common-sense observations and generally accepted facts, e.g., "Smoking is a health hazard."