It is to be deeply regretted that plagiarism has become common practice among some students at graduate and postgraduate levels, and a warning against it is now almost obligatory in every institution of higher education.

Plagiarism is an offence to your lecturer, to your fellow students, and to the profession. Plagiarism means taking over someone’s words or ideas and presenting them as if they were your own. This amounts to stealing, and no argument of the type ‘Gosh, I didn’t realize this was supposed to be unacceptable’ or ‘How the heck did your watch end up in my pocket?’ will wash. Stealing is both unethical and unlawful, and it is penalized in most British and North-American universities with very low grades, failure, or even expulsion. Be assured that, in this MA programme, such practices will meet with the response they deserve: a 0 grade, plus publication of the felony at departmental, faculty and university levels.

If you quote, the quote must be scrupulously accurate, and must be accompanied by a detailed source reference. If you paraphrase or summarize someone’s words or ideas, the paraphrase or summary must be accurate, and the source must be scrupulously indicated. In every case the full reference must be given in the appropriate bibliography.

If your essay or a part of it looks significantly like another source; if this source was public before the writing of yours; and if it is reasonable to suppose that you could have read it (e.g., because it was included in course materials; or because it was in the library; or because it was easily accessible on the Internet)—then, either you copied from it without acknowledgment, or you were not aware of its existence. In the first case you plagiarized; in the second you ignored basic material of easy access. In these cases you are guilty either of a serious breach of authorial rights and etiquette or of serious neglect through carelessness and, more often than not, intellectual laziness.

Many people see no way out of this dilemma: ‘So if I use it it’s wrong, and if I don’t use it’s a mistake’. The formulation is faulty, and the solution simple: you should USE the source, AND provide full acknowledgment.

Here is an example of the proper use of a reference in the body of your text: (Campbell 1949: 23). This means that your source is page 23 of a work by someone called Campbell published in 1949. Obviously this is not enough. If readers are to check the accuracy and context of your quotation, summary etc. (and they very well may), they must have the FULL REFERENCE in the Bibliography:

CAMPBELL, Joseph 1949. The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

London: Fontana Press 1993.

For details about ways of referencing you may consult M. Aguirre & C. Farrell 2007 ‘A Style Guide for Research Students in English Literature’