Plagiarism may be intentional, for instance if the writer deliberately copies someone else's work and submits it as their own. However, especially among student writers, plagiarism is unintentional. Although there may be a number of explanations for deliberate plagiarism, such as poor planning or lack of honest intentions, unintentional plagiarism is often linked to the writer's lack of understanding of the task at hand, of the subject itself, or lack of knowledge about the rules of writing.
For an overview of what counts as plagiarism at university, see
On this page, we give some advice on how to avoid the risk of plagiarism: you need to know the rules of the assignment and how to use sources in your writing.
Knowing the rules
If you are a student, familiarise yourself with rules and regulations concerning examination and academic writing at your department. If you are not sure what rules apply, ask your teacher or supervisor.
Read more in our student writing resources:
Writers of scholarly publications similarly need to follow publishers' guidelines concerning referencing and acknowledgement of sources and previous publications. Many journals and publishing houses have detailed guidelines for writers on their home pages.
Knowing how to work with sources
Careful notes save time and lessens the risk of plagiarism
When you collect material for an assignment, make sure your notes clarify which ideas and words are your own and what comes from someone else. This may seem obvious to you when you write your notes, but at a later stage, you may have forgotten.
One way of doing this is to frame any text passages you intend to quote or paraphrase already at an early stage, using introductory verb phrases. Although you may have to rewrite these introductory phrases, they will remind you of the original context of material you intend to use.
Learn how to provide references
Academic writing is characterized by its strict adherence to specific formats. In order to write an academic paper (essay, article, etc.) it is necessary to be acquainted with writing conventions of the field and text genre. Read about this is the section on