How to (Accidentally) Plagiarise!
In Year 1, one of the core modules for Psychology students is ‘Academic Skills for Psychologists’. It’s pretty much self-explanatory, but as well as Psychology-specific skills we were taught general academic skills as well. One of the lectures in this module was on academic integrity which covered plagiarism (and referencing). You’re probably thinking: ‘Is a whole lecture really necessary? Just don’t copy other people’s work and reference properly!’. The thing about this module was that it delved into academic skills which initially seem ‘basic’. Quote ‘basic’ because academics really isn’t as basic as it seems, as is everything.
A lot of us came out of that particular lecture quite shocked at how easy it is to accidentally plagiarise. I came out of it terrified that every single piece of work that I was going to submit would come back as plagiarised and that I was going to one day get called into my personal tutor’s office, faced with the Head of Department and our DSEP (Director of Student Experience and Progression) telling me my work had come back as being highly plagiarised, even though I really didn’t mean to and checked over it multiple times. Thankfully, that has yet to, and hopefully will never, happen. Nevertheless, the fear is still there.
Despite that, I am grateful that we have this module in Psychology and that this was something we were made aware about. I’m aware that not every student will have the opportunity to have a whole module dedicated to building academic skills. Whilst learning practically and through direct experience can really enhance your theoretical knowledge, in this case I think that just the theory is good enough!
So, I’m going to take some of the points that Dr. Jag Jutley-Neilson, one of the academics and our DSEP in Psychology, raised in this lecture. (I know… That’s a very poor citation).
Feeling like a hypocrite for this one because I have technically self-plagiarised a blog post on here… Anyhow, I am sure that we have all self-plagiarised before. I didn’t even know that this was even a form of plagiarism until this lecture. Recall in Sixth Form or GCSE where there was overlap. For example, in English Literature we would often segregate analyses into themes. Sometimes an analysis of a particular part of a novel in one theme could be located into another theme. We could take one paragraph from one essay and slightly alter it to answer a separate question.
Sorry to break it to you, but you can’t do that at university. It’s plagiarism. Unfortunately, it’s a very easy way of plagiarising. There have been multiple times when I’ve been in the midst of writing an assignment only to be hit with that familiar sense of déjà vu, which then led to me frantically scanning my documents to see whether I have written this exact sentence before.
With exams being online, we are able to use any notes that we have access to and reflect on the question more. That also leads to a greater chance of accidently self-plagiarising from notes that you may have used in an assignment, so just be weary of this!
I think I think we are all guilty of this as well. I’m talking about when you’re sitting in a lecture trying to keep up with the speed of it and frantically scribbling down everything you need to know before the lecturer moves on. There seems to be no time to stop and think sometimes! The problem here is that you end up copying a lot of material without properly changing it. Even when you go off and rewrite your notes some information doesn’t get reworded if the lecturer has explained it clear enough for you.
With exams being online and still with time restrictions, there is a chance that we might inadequately paraphrase from our (lecture) notes, which is not something we usually have to think about in usual exam conditions. However, a simple tip that we were given in the lecture was to read what you want to include in your essay, cover the notes up, attempt to write what you need to rather than still writing it up with the notes in front of you; then cross check. It may be worth doing this with everything you want to include just to be extra cautious. If there is something you are struggling to paraphrase, you can clearly highlight it (as you would do in an assignment) and come back to it later.
Using FALSE CITATIONS and INACCURATELY REPORTING INFORMATION:
If there’s a paper that sounds like it backs up your point, but you don’t quite understand it, either ask for clarification from a lecturer or a peer if possible, or don’t use it. I know it is a pain spending what seems like hours finding the perfect source then not being able to use it, but it’s better to not doubt yourself I this case. Think of it this way: Most of us have had our words twisted at one point or another and we all know how it feels. Maybe save it for future reference. Likewise, if you can remember a piece of evidence but can’t find the citation and reference in your notes but think you know it, don’t guess.
Your lecturers are likely to be marking you more harshly on your referencing and citations because you have more time to accurately report and check over them.
All in all, don’t take the risk. Double (and triple check) if you are unsure.
Here’s some links that I would highly recommend if you haven’t directly covered plagiarism on your course, or if you are a prospective student and want to get your head around plagiarism in advance:
· Warwick Library: Don’t Plagiarise, Be PlagiaWISE Moodle course.
· TurnItIn: 10 Types of Plagiarism (with examples).
· UCL (IOE): Paraphrasing for Beginner’s on examples of how to paraphrase.
Best of luck with your online exams/ alternative assessments!