Avoiding plagiarism

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is using the work of other people without acknowledgement. Rules about plagiarism apply to the use of all text, including written information, pictures/images, maps, tables and figures from all sources (e.g. books, journal articles, the Internet and magazines). Plagiarism can also apply to spoken words (e.g. a radio broadcast or a lecture). All students should know that plagiarism is a serious violation of academic values, with potentially serious consequences, which are outlined in the UNE Policy documents on avoiding plagiarism and academic misconduct advice for students guideline.

Make sure you know how to:

  • Cite your sources;
  • Paraphrase; 
  • Summarise; and
  • Use direct quotes.

This will help you avoid inadvertently plagiarising.

Cite your sources

Regardless of whether you have used direct or indirect quotations (paraphrases or summaries), you need to acknowledge the source of the ideas you are using in your writing. This is called in-text referencing. There are two main methods of in-text referencing used at UNE: author-date  (APA, Chicago, MLA, AGPS, depending on the choices made by your school) and  footnoting (Traditional footnoting for History, AGLC for Law).


Paraphrasing means putting the ideas and information gained from other sources into your own words. Clearly, there may often be technical or discipline-specific words that you cannot replace; however, the sentence and paragraph structure must be your own. This is called paraphrasing, and the resulting piece of text is an indirect quote. Paraphrasing is easiest if you refer to your sources of information and try to draw out the main concepts or information. These then may be reorganised and words and word order changed so that the resulting text is in your voice. Try to avoid reliance on word-for-word paraphrasing that involves frequently resorting to a Thesaurus; the resulting writing will probably sound stilted and will not flow easily.


A summary will also involve writing ideas or information from another source in your own words, but a summary will be shorter than the original. To summarise a longer piece of text, you will condense the main ideas into a shorter piece of text. When summarising, you need to consider the relationship between the length of the material in the original source and the importance of those ideas for the thesis or paragraph topic in the essay. The approach to summarising will vary depending on this relationship. For example, do you want to summarise a paragraph from a source as a phrase or sentence in your essay? Do you want to summarise an entire article or book in several sentences in your essay?When writing summaries for an annotated bibliography, you will summarise each source as a paragraph.

Direct quotes

Paraphrasing is essential in academic writing, but may be supplemented by the occasional use of the exact words from a source such as a book, journal article or website. This is called a direct quote, and you need to indicate that these are not your words. You do this by enclosing a short direct quote in double or single inverted commas (according to the instructions of the referencing system you are using). For long quotes, the text is placed on a new line and indented to the right (according to the instructions of the referencing system you are using).

Back to top of page

Check your understanding of avoiding plagiarism

This image is of a person with a speech bubble that says "How did you go with your self-check?If you did well, congratulations!

If you got some of the words wrong, then you might need to re-read the information and retake the activity.

Sometimes it helps to take a break, so go for a walk, have a cup of tea, and revisit the information with a clear head.

Now is the time to make sure you are confident in avoiding plagiarism!

Try this next activity:

The following sentence is a short direct quote that is taken directly from Newble and Cannon (1989, p. 2): “Motivation is such a key factor that it appears to be more important in learning than intelligence.”

Seven possible ways to present this sentence in your academic writing are below. Try to work out which are plagiarised and which are acceptable according to the APA style of referencing. Select your responses to the following examples:

This image of a person has a speech bubble that says "How did you go with your self-check?"

If you did well, congratulations!

If you found some of the sentences acceptable when they weren’t, it would be a good idea to revisit the information on plagiarism and do the activity again.

Sometimes it helps to clarify issues by discussing them with another person, so talk to a friend or contact a staff member from the Academic Skills Office.

Gaining clarity now will help you avoid inadvertent plagiarism!

Newble, D., & Cannon, R. (1989). A handbook for teachers in universities and colleges. London, UK: Kogan Page.

The following guidelines should help you to avoid plagiarism:

    • Write the source on any notes or copies you make from any document or electronic sources such as the internet. The habit of copying or ‘cutting-and-pasting’ text directly from a source as you read is very dangerous. It is easy to forget that the notes you make or excerpts you have ‘cut-and-pasted’ are not your own and to later write them into an essay or report as if they were your own words.
    • Keep details of the sources you have relied upon for each assignment throughout the unit. Plagiarism is often the result of lack of care, poor study and/or poor referencing methods;
    • Acknowledge all sources containing the concepts, experiments, performances or results from which you have extracted or developed your ideas, even if you put those ideas into your own words;
    • Acknowledge the source of all images you include in your assignments;
    • Always use quotation marks or some other acceptable indicator of quotation when quoting directly from a work. It is not enough merely to acknowledge the source;
    • Avoid excessive paraphrasing and quoting, even where you acknowledge the source. Instead, read your sources then put them out of sight. Think about the meaning that is important and relevant to you and your task, then write this in your own words. This approach will help improve your writing generally;
    • Be familiar with the style of acknowledgment that is recommended for use in each of your units, including the referencing techniques required for information sourced from the internet;
    • Be aware of the rules regarding group work and collaboration. Collaboration (appropriately acknowledged) is permitted in the case of team or group projects. It is also permitted in the more general case when the collaboration is limited to the discussion of general strategies or help of a general nature. If you have any doubt about what constitutes authorised (legitimate) and unauthorised collaboration (collusion) for specific assessment tasks, seek advice from your Unit Coordinator;
    • Understand that the distinction between what needs to be acknowledged and what is common knowledge is not always clear. As you gain experience you will learn the acceptable practices for acknowledgment in the disciplines in which you study, but while you are learning, always play safe and acknowledge;
    • Keep a printed (hard) copy and (where possible) an electronic copy of all of your submitted work to assist you in case you ever need to answer an allegation of plagiarism. This is important for your own protection against possible misuse of your submitted assignment by another student and against possible suspicion of plagiarism if you ever have to resubmit an assignment that has ‘gone astray’. If your original assignment has been lost, stolen or damaged, you must be able to produce it again as needed, without undue delay; and
    • Wherever possible, submit your assignment to TurnItIn (or the equivalent text-matching software in your discipline) before you make the final submission, and look at the report produced on your assignment.



Back to top of page

Download a print friendly version of this content.