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Information Literacy Graduates: Avoiding plagiarism

Learning outcomes

After studying this section you will be aware of the consequences of not appropriately referring to your sources; i.e. committing plagiarism.

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism means presenting someone else’s work as your own. Plagiarism is intellectual theft and is regarded as academic misconduct.

The different aspects of plagiarism

Avoiding plagiarism

Plagiarism can be committed unintentionally. Make sure you always provide proper source references so that others can see which ideas are not your own but found in publications by other authors.

Providing proper source references also enables other people to check these sources. 

See also the chapter Using literature sources in your text.

Types of plagiarism

There are different types of plagiarism and all are serious violations of academic honesty.

Direct plagiarism: the word-for-word transcription of part of someone else’s work, without attribution and without quotation marks.

Self-plagiarism occurs when a student submits his or her own previous work, or mixes parts of previous works. 

Mosaic Plagiarism occurs when a student borrows phrases from a source without using quotation marks, or finds synonyms for the author’s language while keeping to the same general structure and meaning of the original. 

Accidental plagiarism occurs when a person neglects to cite their sources or unintentionally paraphrases a source by using similar words, groups of words without attribution. Cases of accidental plagiarism are taken as seriously as any other plagiarism.

Examples of plagiarism

Understanding the most common forms of plagiarism will help you avoid them. Follow the links below to learn more about each type and how to avoid committing them.

Example 1 Direct Plagiarism

Word for word borrowing from an unacknowledged source, whether intentional or not.

Example 2 Mosaic Plagiarism
Mosaic plagiarism occurs when a writer reuses a mix of words, phrases, and ideas from a source without indicating which words and ideas have been borrowed and/or without properly citing the source.

(Website of Bowdoin University Library)

Tutorial on plagiarism - Do the test!

CBB version of tutorial/self-test:

Do I have to provide a reference if I describe something in my own words?

You should always provide a source reference when you use someone else’s work in your own text, irrespective of whether you are citing directly from the work or describing it in your own words (paraphrasing).

Generally-known facts do not have to be referenced

Statements such as ‘The rise of the internet has had a major impact on the development of society’ do not require a source reference.

This statement is so widely known and accepted that it can be regarded as a generally-known fact.

Grey areas

Unfortunately, it is not always clear whether a source reference is required. In such cases you will have to decide for yourself.

Your decision should be based on the principle that you do not want to present someone else’s work as your own.


Committing plagiarism can have serious consequences for the perpetrator such as exclusion from course units and even degree programmes.