Key words: plagiarism, copyright, self-generated knowledge, common knowledge, intellectual property

People and organisations can legally own information; it is a commodity. Universities, in particular, create and store knowledge through their teaching and research. In your university studies, you will be expected to work with the intellectual property of others and will be required to apply the appropriate citation rules to all of your writing tasks.

About plagiarism

It is critical that you have a full understanding of how evidence is used appropriately (and legally) in academic writing. Take some time to read about copyright and intellectual property at UNE:

Student coursework academic misconduct rule

Academic Integrity Module

Examples of plagiarism

The most common forms of plagiarism are:

  • copying word for word from a source and NOT citing the source
  • copying someone else’s ideas and changing them into your own words and NOT citing the source
  • patchworking (taking bits and pieces) from other sources so that it looks like your work and NOT citing the sources
  • copying and pasting information from the Internet and NOT citing the source
  • paraphrasing someone’s writing so that it is only slightly different from the original writing (sham paraphrasing) even if you cite the source
  • copying and submitting part or whole of your own previously submitted and marked work
  • copying and submitting part of or the whole of another student’s work (i.e. cheating!)
  • submitting work that has been written by another person as your own (i.e cheating!)

To reference or not to reference

When you write a research essay, you use information from three kinds of sources.

Click on each link for a description.

Self-generated knowledge (no reference required)

If you use your independent thoughts, experiences or experimental results and express these in your own writing and format, then you do not have to reference any of these (e.g. collecting data on your personal writing problems; setting your data on a graph and then writing a report on your findings).

Common knowledge (no reference required)

Common knowledge is usually information that is commonly known within the community or within a particular discipline and may be found in a wide range of sources (e.g. information such as an essay is a piece of writing expressing someone’s opinion is widely-known, common knowledge and would not require referencing). Determining whether information is common knowledge can be tricky (e.g. researching and writing essays stimulates student learning is an opinion. That is not common knowledge and would require referencing). However, if you use a direct quote, then you must always provide a citation.

The intellectual property of others (reference required)

Facts or ideas that belong to the research or thinking of other people require acknowledgment. These ideas are other people’s independent thoughts and actions. The source can be any type of medium (e.g. a book, letter, an email, magazine, newspaper, film, speech, a lecture, interview, television program, CD-ROM, youTube, social media). You must acknowledge not only the ideas or facts themselves but also the language and format in which they are presented (e.g. if you use an image, table or diagram created by another writer, acknowledge it just as you would their ideas).


Exercise 1: Kinds of knowledge

Try classifying these examples. Click and drag the sentences to the correct (coloured) box.

Different sources of evidence

Now that you understand the idea that you have to reference the evidence that you use in your writing, you need to have a good idea of the resource materials that are appropriate for academic writing. Work through the eSkills Plus Research Skills section, particularly looking at ‘Primary sources’, ‘Secondary literature’ and ‘Tertiary literature':

eSKILLS Plus: Research skills


  • Don’t leave your assignment until the last minute so that you have no time to check your referenced resources and edit your work for plagiarism
  • Avoid being disorganised with your resources. Have a safe system for organising your information sources so that you make no mistakes (e.g. write notes on your resources)
  • Don’t take shortcuts with information—your lecturers mostly know all the tricks (e.g pretend that you have read resources from a reference list)


More information:
ASO factsheet: Avoiding plagiarism