Avoiding Plagiarism

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the use of someone else’s words, ideas, concepts, arguments, designs or work without properly crediting the original author. You plagiarise when you copy or recycle another’s work without due
acknowledgment, or when you knowingly allow someone to use your own work in this way.

Sometimes plagiarism involves deliberately stealing someone’s work, but often it happens accidentally, through carelessness or forgetfulness.

How can I avoid plagiarism?

A key way to avoid plagiarism is to keep a track of all your research as you work. You cannot refer to, quote or paraphrase a source without appropriately referencing it in your work. So if even you have an excellent piece of information that is highly relevant to your assignment, if you cannot outline fully where you found it, you must not use it.

The second way to avoid plagiarism is to apply the relevant referencing style. It is essential that you start to build your understanding of the Griffith College Harvard referencing style, or Oscola if you are studying law, from the very start of your studies. This is not negotiable, and is expected to be applied from first year undergraduate studies.

By taking care to reference your work correctly you will:

  • Avoid committing accidental plagiarism. You must acknowledge any work, or part of any work, that you quote, paraphrase, summarise or copy.
  • If you write a sentence and do not include a reference, it is assumed that it is all your own work. Therefore, if you have in fact paraphrased someones work it is considered to be plagiarised.
  • If you use a quotation, and reference it but not do use quotations, that is taken that you are representing that the words are your own and can be considered to be plagiarism.
  • Take care not to include too many quotations, too much summary or paraphrasing.  If most of an assignment is simply a listed presentation of other peoples work, you cannot claim it is your own work and this is considered a form of plagiarism.  Often it is a question of a lack of confidence in expressing personal thoughts and insights in an academic style that leads to this issue. We have recommended textbooks to help with this, and also some very useful guides to help you articulate your research.
  • You must treat websites in the same way you would any source.

Our Referencing Styles section has full style guides for Griffith College Harvard and the Oscola Ireland Legal referencing style.

Tutorial – Understanding referencing to avoid plagiarism

All Aboard Higher Education / Digital Learning:  Interactive lesson on understanding referencing

This lesson from AllAboard.ie introduces using referencing standards to address the issue of avoiding plagiarism. It examines the distinctions between paraphrasing, quoting, citing and other ways of combining sources.

Top tips to avoid plagiarism

Start early – And take notes!

An easy way to help you avoid plagiarism is to give yourself enough time when starting on your assignment. It is easy to miss something when you are under pressure for time. Give yourself sufficient time to do your research and take notes as you go. Every time you see something that catches your attention, note where you found it, if it is a quote, write down the page number.  You can keep a track in a Word document, Excel or on a notepad. The Library recommend Zotero as an excellent way to keep a track of your work, and we offer support in learning how best to use it.

Cite correctly

It is one thing to cite your sources, but unfortunately that won’t mean much if you don’t do it correctly. Make sure you know what referencing style is expected for the assignment you are working on and apply it accurately. You might be trying to do the right thing and still get it wrong, so do check in with the library if you are in any doubt.

Internet is a Source

Treat a source you found on the internet the very same as you would a book or a journal article. It is still someone’s original work and should be treated with the same sense of fair play. You must reference or cite the online sources you use.


Use quotations when you are directly quoting someone. As soon as you write it down in your notes, be sure to include the page you found it on, either in a book or a journal article.


Paraphrasing is when you reword a sentence without it losing meaning. You write it in your own words, and do not just take out one word and replace it with another.

Reference page

Include a reference page at the end of your assignment. It is best to keep a track of bibliographic  information as you research. If you try to retrace your steps at the end as finish up your written work you will run into problems.


It does not take that much time to scan through your paper and make sure you have cited every source you used. Do not be tempted to skip this step, you should avoid including a source that has not been acknowledged. After all, you have done the research, you should take care to take every opportunity to demonstrate the breadth of your reading.

Talk to your lecturer

Make sure you know the guidelines for the assignment you are working on. Sometimes, we can save ourselves so much of time by simply asking. Clarify if a reference page or in-text citation is required.

Add Value

Be discerning. You should not need to use all information you find in your sources. You can add value to the topic by including some of your own insights.

When we research we have gained a more interconnected understanding of the topic. However, too often when if comes to writing up assignments we can revert to simply listing a synopsis of the material we have read. Rather than simply listing other’s work, you should demonstrate understanding of the material.  You can refer to the Guide and Resources for Academic Writing section to gain some further assistance in this.

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