Examples

Plagiarism may take different forms in different disciplines. Two examples are given - one from the Social Sciences and one from Computing.

Social Sciences

There are correct and incorrect ways to use other peoples' ideas and words. Consider the following source and three ways that a student might make use of it.

This is the original text from page 845 of a book entitled History of the World by J. M. Roberts.

In 1935 Italy made a belated attempt to participate in the scramble for Africa by invading Ethiopia.  It was clearly a breach of the covenant of the League of Nations for one of its members to attack another.  France and Great Britain, as great powers, Mediterranean powers, and African colonial powers, were bound to take the lead against Italy at the league.  But they did so feebly and half-heartedly because they did not want to alienate a possible ally against Germany.  The result was the worst possible: the league failed to check aggression, Ethiopia lost her independence, and Italy was alienated after all.

No Plagiarism:

Much has been written about German rearmament and militarism in the period 1933-1939.  But Germany's dominance in Europe was by no means a foregone conclusion.  The fact is that the balance of power might have been tipped against Hitler if one or two things had turned out differently.  Take Italy's gravitation toward an alliance with Germany, for example.  That alliance seemed so very far from inevitable that Britain and France actually muted their criticism of the Ethiopian invasion in the hope of remaining friends with Italy.  They opposed the Italians in the League of Nations, as J. M. Roberts observes, "feebly and half-heartedly because they did not want to alienate a possible ally against Germany" (Roberts 1976, p. 845). 

Notice that the student has constructed a fully developed paragraph based on a clear main point that he/she has carefully thought out and written in his/her own words.  Good paragraph construction is the key to avoiding plagiarism.  The student has used the public facts mentioned by Roberts, but has not tried to pass off Roberts' conclusions as his/her own.  The one clear borrowing is properly acknowledged.

Some plagiarism:

Under Mussolini in 1935, Italy made a belated attempt to participate in the scramble for Africa by invading Ethiopia.  As J. M. Roberts points out, this violated the covenant of the League of Nations (Roberts 1976, p. 845).  But France and Britain, not wanting to alienate a possible ally against Germany, put up only feeble and half-hearted opposition to the Ethiopian adventure.  The outcome, as Roberts observes, was "the worst possible: the league failed to check aggression, Ethiopia lost her independence, and Italy was alienated after all" (Roberts1976, p. 845).

The writer has acknowledged only two of the four instances in which he/she has used ideas and/or phrases from the original source. Some of Roberts' words are again being presented as the writer's and this is plagiarism.

Plagiarism:

When Italy invaded Ethiopia, it was clearly a breach of the covenant of the League of Nations; yet the efforts of England and France to take the lead against her were feeble and half-hearted. It appears that those great powers had no wish to alienate a possible ally against Hitler's rearmed Germany.

The student has not acknowledged that he/she has used exact phrases from the original source.  Note that the writer's combination of his/her own words with words from the source does not render the student innocent of plagiarism.

(This example taken from Crews, F. (1992) The Random House Handbook, 6th ed., New York: McGraw-Hill, pp. 181-183)  Copied under CAL)

Computer Programming

In the submission of computer programs it is important that the structure of the program is the student's own work. The structure is implicit in arguments and purpose of procedures and functions, the data structures, and the logic of the program as determined by the sequence of statements, conditional constructs and loops. It is not acceptable merely to take another person's program and modify the variable names. It is usually the case that identical or near identical program structures indicate plagiarism and are relatively easy to detect. It is particularly easy to copy computer files. Unauthorised copying is stealing and severe penalties exist.

Refer to specific example for computer code for further guidance.