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Referencing and plagiarism - Skills Guide

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What is Plagiarism and why does it matter? 

"Passing off as your own a piece of work that is partly or wholly the work of another student,

Citing and referencing sources that you have not used,

Quoting, summarising or paraphrasing material in your assignment without citing the original source,

'Recycling' a piece of your own work that you have previously submitted for another module or course."

(Cite them right online, 2015)

This guide will help you understand why plagiarism is important and how understanding referencing will help you avoid committing plagiarism. Let's begin by looking at the Academic Regulations for the University of Derby, Academic Offences are discussed in 'Part J'.

J2.1 Plagiarism:

(i) An offence occurs when a student submits as work of their own, work of which they are not the author.

(ii) Plagiarism has occurred when the student:

  • Does not acknowledge the work of another person or persons, or
  • Has not identified the source or cited quotations in any work presented for assessment, or
  • Has used images, music, video, patents or other creative materials without acknowledgement of their provenance, or
  • Has copied another student's work without their knowledge, or
  • Has submitted the same piece of their own work for assessment and award of credit in two (or more) modules.

(iii) If a student's work is found to contain verbatim (or near verbatim) quotation from the work of others without acknowledgement, then plagiarism has been committed. 

(iv) If the student has engaged a third party to significantly or partially create a piece of work on their behalf, then plagiarism has been committed. Third party engagement can take the form of paid or unpaid work.

Reading this section helps us understand plagiarism a lot better - it also helps us understand how to avoid plagiarism.

Acknowledging the work of others (referencing).

Referencing is the act of acknowledging the work of others. The rule is really simple - if you used someone else's work to create the work that you are submitting as your own, you have to reference to that work. This isn't just for text from library books or journal articles in direct quotations, but also when you paraphrase another person's original thought. It also applies to images and other media you might incorporate, for example music in the background of a presentation or video.

Paraphrasing and references

Our academic writing guide has a detailed explanation of paraphrasing. The Skills Team often gets asked about paraphrasing and why it matters - read the linked guide for an explanation. This is important; if you are paraphrasing someone else's existing text or work, you are definitely including someone else's original thought.  A paraphrased section therefore should have a citation and reference.

Images and other media

There is one important consideration when it comes to images and other media and plagiarism, that is copyright. Please check this excellent overview by our Copyright Advisor. You may not always be able to use an image or other media file from the internet or elsewhere due to copyright restrictions. If you can, for example due to a Creative Commons BY license, you should always acknowledge the original author/copyright holder. 


The final form of plagiarism discussed in this guide has its own category in the academic regulations. This is when a student is working with others on an assignment that should be created individually. It is always worth clarifying with your lecturer whether you are allowed to work together or not. Please note that as long as the work you are creating is solely yours, it is of course permissible to discuss the assignment with your fellow students, just ensure your work is your original.