Question 1: Define "to
2. (RIGHT): The New
Oxford English Dictionary, 1993 edition, page 2231, gives three
the verb 'to plagiarize' (or 'plagiarise'):
- To take and use as your own (the thoughts, inventions and
writings of someone else)
- to pass off the work of someone else as your own
- to copy improperly or without acknowledging sources
- take and use as one's own (the thoughts, writings, inventions,
etc., of another person)
- copy (literary work, ideas, etc) improperly or without
- pass off the thoughts, work, etc., of (another person) as one's
What is wrong with the first answer?
Answer: It is clearly taken from the Oxford Dictionary (the small
do not succeed in hiding this). But the source (Oxford
is not acknowledged. So the first
answer is plagiarised.
- Why is plagiarism not allowed?
- Plagiarism is theft of intellectual property. It is
dishonest. We cannot condone this. As a future professional,
neither should you.
- It may involve breach of copyright, which is illegal.
Copyright comes into existence by the mere publishing of work; no
registration process is needed. So copyrighted works are very
- Why should we give credit (marks) to you for work done by
- How would you feel if someone else used your work or ideas
without acknowledgment or permission?
- The purpose of exercises is to help you learn the material we
teach. You are not doing this if you use someone else's work
- It is not fair to the majority of students who did the work
themselves if you get credit for work that someone else did.
- An Imperial degree is a certification to employers and others
have competence in the degree subject. It carries a lot of weight
because of the College's reputation. Like any currency, the value
of the degree is in the end based on trust, and it must continually
be defended. Students gaining credit through passing others' work
off as their own are presenting the certificate under false pretences
--- they acquired it in part through cheating, and so in their case the
certificate does not mean what it says at face value.
Essentially, it is a forgery. It devalues the Imperial degree and
hurts the College and all our students, past, present, and future.
- If I don't just copy but change
the work and add my own ideas, how can this be plagiarism?
It can be. Read the definition above.
- Well then, I don't understand
what's allowed and what's not. When is it OK to use work without
acknowledgment, when should/must I acknowledge, and when can't I use
work at all?
If in doubt, ask a member of
staff --- e.g., the lecturer or the lab coordinator.
- You can use without
acknowledgement material in notes issued to you by staff in the
Department, and notes you took in lectures, because we already know you
- When you use publicly available material
(like lecture notes on the web, or library books), there are some grey
If in doubt,
It never does you harm, and it may get
you extra credit for showing initiative in researching relevant
material or for your deep knowledge of the literature.
- If you simply learn the background material, or part of
through online notes, etc., and then write
your own solution to the exercise, the solution not being substantially
similar to material in the notes, then no acknowledgment is needed, though it does you
no harm to give one.
- If you use publicly available material as a base, adapt
it a lot to fit the problem you have been set, and add your own
contributions too, but your final submission still contains material
substantially similar to the source, then you must acknowledge the
- If you are lucky enough (or so you think!) to find work
the web that nearly or exactly solves the exercise, then it cannot be used even with an
Pasting large chunks
of someone else's text into your work is unacceptable and pointless
with an acknowledgment, and plagiarism without one.
You must produce your own original solutions to
- It is never allowed
to use other students' work, even with their permission, and even if
you give an acknowledgment. "Other students" means students other
than yourself; it doesn't matter whether they are or were at Imperial
College or elsewhere.
- Surely I can use, say, a
dictionary without acknowledging it? That's what it's there for.
If you use it to correct your spelling, yes. If you
quote material from it, as at the top of this page, then you are using
intellectual property belonging to another and you should acknowledge
- But I hate giving
- Because it takes credit away
from me and I will get a lower mark.
- This makes my point. By not giving an acknowledgment,
are trying to claim credit for someone else's work. You will
probably not get a lower mark if you acknowledge. You could get a
much lower mark if you don't, and are caught. Don't be selfish:
acknowledge where it is due.
- What is the purpose of an
acknowledgment? Why does it make everything alright?
It doesn't always make everything alright: see Q3 above. The
reasons for giving an acknowledgment are:
- It is honest and serves natural justice to name and give
appropriate credit to your sources. It is a matter of your
- It is standard academic practice to identify sources of work,
so that your own contribution can be judged, and so that the original
sources can be examined, if need be, to resolve
- What form should an
It should be sufficiently precise to allow the source to be
You can briefly explain how you used the material, if you think this
- for a book (or journal article): title, author, publisher (or
journal and volume number), year of publication, page number(s)
- for a web source: URL(s) of all material used, plus brief
details of what it is --- e.g., "course notes by Prof XXX, University
of YYY", with date of publication if available.
It is not adequate just to cite
the URL of a large website where the source and many other documents can be found.
If the source is long, further details should be included,
such as "page 23" or "section 4.2" or a section heading, or, failing this, a percent
estimate of how far down the relevant material is within the document.
- If you yourself are submitting webpages (as is sometimes the
case), it is easy to include links to original sources --- but links
should work, and be clearly visible with appropriate text to
Acknowledgments should be accurate. If we cannot find the
material, you may be asked to locate it. You may want to save
copies of web material you use, in case it disappears between
submission and marking.
- What if I make my work available
to others to use? What
if someone steals my work without permission, or finds it lying around?
If your work is used with your permission, you will be punished.
If it is used without your permission, you may still be punished if
you contributed to the theft by recklessness or not taking proper
- Do not allow your work to be copied.
- Do not give or lend your work to other students for any
reason, even if you tell them not to copy it.
- Be careful what happens to your printouts.
- Keep your home directory privileges set so outsiders cannot
or copy your files. If you need help with this, ask the Lab
Coordinator or CSG.
- Be careful transferring files to and from home by placing
your public_html directory. This is publicly accessible.
there are no links to your files, Google can find them.
- What happens if I work together
with my friend to produce an original solution?
If the lecturer/lab coordinator stated that the assignment
was to be done jointly, then fine. If not, and you submit as
individual solutions work that was produced jointly, then this is
plagiarism and you will be punished.
- Am I not allowed to work with other
students at all then?
We encourage preliminary discussions of exercises among students.
Working effectively with others is an important "life skill". But
the work students finally submit should always be their own original
- I am stuck on the
exercise. Can I ask other students for help?
By all means discuss work with other students; but do not copy their
work, and never ask them for printouts or files of their work to help
you or as a guide. You may always ask lab assistants or the Lab
Coordinator for help with labwork, and the lecturer or their helpers
for help with coursework. This is always safe, and you will get
better help! Please contact the lecturer, lab coordinator,
the student reps, or the course/year coordinator,
if you have difficulties in getting help from these.
- I have ten other courseworks to
do, the schedule is too demanding right now.
I have personal problems and I've been ill, and I'm
completely stressed out.
I have to copy someone else's work just to get the assignment done by
the deadline. It's the Department's fault for making us work so
Copying is plagiarism. You will be punished and will
probably end up with a low mark as well as a stain on your
record. You would be better off not submitting the exercise at
all. If you have personal problems/illness,
the solution is not to cheat but to contact your personal tutor, the
senior tutor, or (for M.Sc.) the course coordinator, who may be able to
arrange for some allowance to be made. Possibly you may be
allowed to submit late
--- this is far preferable to plagiarising.
- I found another student's home
directory open for access and copied her work, with some original
inputs of my own. Surely I am OK because it's her fault for
leaving her directory accessible.
Using another student's work without permission is a major case of
plagiarism. Please read the definition of
- I found another student's work
lying around, and I copied it. It wasn't very good so I added
some improvements of my own. Surely I am OK because it's his
leaving his work around, and anyway I improved it.
Using another student's work without permission is a major case of
plagiarism. Please read the definition of
- I have a brother in a university
in Canada who was set a similar exercise. He has given me
permission to use his solution. Surely if I just copy parts of it, it's
OK, and anyway you'll never catch me.
This incident happened in a recent year (some details have been
modified to protect the guilty). We did catch them. It is
never allowed to use work of other students, even with their
- I found I can buy courseworks
off the web by credit card. They are being sold by commercial
organisations. Surely it's OK to use them if I pay for
them? They are then my property.
Using such work is a major case of plagiarism. Please read the definition of 'plagiarism' above.
- I don't believe you catch
anyone. Students are too clever, we can hide our
We have more years of experience in catching than you have
of cheating. We catch cases every year. Dealing with them
is time-consuming and unpleasant for all parties. Staff are
here to teach you a wonderful subject and open up a world of
possibilities to you. It is saddening and angering for us to find students
cheating, and be forced to spend time on disciplinary matters. It
would be better for everyone if you simply did the exercises as
intended --- using your own ideas.
- What will happen when I am
The Department is bound by the College's Cheating Offences Policy and Procedures.
- Will any record kept on my file
affect references written for me?
Well, what do you think?
Please don't commit plagiarism.
This document is for Department of Computing and JMC students only.
In the event of a conflict with College policy, College policy takes precedence.