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Plagiarism and Academic Misconduct


Q. I still don't really understand what plagiarism is. Where can I get help?

Plagiarism is passing off someone else's work as if it were your own without appropriate acknowledgement. If, after reading the University's statement on plagiarism and any guidance provided by your faculty or department, you are still unsure, you should seek advice from your Director of Studies or Tutor. For a list of other sources of support at the University please see the Resources and support section.

If in doubt always cite the source where you obtained the information/work you are referring to.  Check our When to cite pages for more information.

Q. How do I avoid plagiarising?

By being sure you understand and follow the correct referencing conventions for your subject. Some of the most commonly used reference techniques are Harvard and Vancouver. Make sure you are aware of and understand the conventions appropriate to your subject and use those recommended by your own Department.

Q. At school we were allowed to use information from the web. Is this allowed?

Yes, you are able to cite and use information whatever its source as long as it is appropriately referenced; there are specific ways of doing this for web-based sources.  Make sure that you are reading critically, whatever the source.

You should consult any guidance issued by your Department on correct referencing techniques and if in doubt consult your Tutor or Director of Studies.

Q. My friend and I often work together on our assessed coursework and regularly swap essays, particularly if one is given a high mark. Is this ok?

Sometimes you may be assessed by your Department to do some form of joint project in which case you need to make sure you follow any relevant guidelines or instructions you may have been given. In some instances, although you may be expected to collaborate, you will still be required to make your own contribution.

Where coursework is to be submitted and assessed individually it is ok to discuss the topic with other students providing the work you submit is your own and not copied or extensively borrowed from somebody else.

Q. My friend bought her last essay from a company and received a high mark for it. I still need to submit an assignment and I think it would be a better use of my time to revise, rather than write the essay. Why shouldn't I use the same service?

Getting someone else to do work on your behalf (whether a company, friend or parent), or submitting someone else's work as though it is your own is plagiarism. If you are found out, you will undoubtedly receive a lower overall mark and could be subject to further disciplinary penalties. 

Additionally, writing the essay is part of your preparation for the exam, and you are unlikely to understand the topic as well as if you had undertaken the work yourself.  You can find guidance on Time management and other skills to help you, in our Study skills section.

Finally, remember that as a student you are part of an academic community and plagiarism in any form is unacceptable.  Everyone involved in scholarly work is a member of an institutional community which aims to uphold intellectual honesty and transparency.

Q. I want to use part of another essay that I wrote, or work that I have published, as part of my dissertation; I don’t need to cite this because I wrote it, right?

Wrong!  Even though the work is your own, if it has previously been submitted for publication you must clearly cite it as you would any other author. 

You cannot re-use work that has already been submitted for assessment – either at Cambridge or elsewhere – as part of another assessment, unless this has been explicitly allowed as part of your course.  It is natural for material used in an earlier part of your studies to be built upon at a later date, but re-using the same essay or parts of an essay is not permitted on most courses.  If you have not been given explicit permission to use your previously assessed or published work and if it is not cited correctly then this is academic misconduct and it could result in significant academic penalties.