As you progress though your degree you will be expected to read around and write about the various subjects that you study. Computer Science involves the writing of many various types of reports, programs, essays etc. and it is vital that you understand how to acknowledge other peoples work and hence avoid plagiarism.

When you use other peoples work (which you invariably will) whether it be a fellow student, author, researcher you must acknowledge their ideas, what they said and when. Plagiarism is where you use someone else's ideas or receive specific help and do not acknowledge the source.

Plagiarism can be deliberate or accidental and so can be difficult to determine. But it is vital as you go through your studies that understand how to avoid it. This tutorial is designed to help you begin to understand what does and does not constitute plagiarism.  If you are not sure what plagiarism is how can you avoid it!

This tutorial will

What is plagiarism?

The following definitions are taken from the University of Durham Teaching and Learning Handbook section 6.1.4

"Plagiarism: unacknowledged quotations or close paraphrasing of other people's writing, amounting to the presentation of other person's thoughts or writings as one's own.  This includes material which is available on the world-wide web and in any other electronic form".

"Collusion: working with one or more other students to produce work which is then presented as one's own in a situation in which this is inappropriate or not permitted and/or without acknowledging the collaboration"

The University takes a very serious view of any form of flagrant plagiarism and in extreme cases this can result in the expulsion of the student.

Defining plagiarism can be difficult - plagiarism is cheating and we know it is wrong. There are different types of plagiarism some more obvious than others. Certainly the ease at which information can be found and purchased over the WWW has increased the amount of plagiarism occurring but other common types are:


Word-for-word plagiarism is one in which the writer directly quotes a passage or passages from an author's work without the use of proper quotation marks. Examples of this are provided with explanations of what you should do.


Paraphrase is stating someone else's ideas in your own words. In our day-to-day life we are often paraphrasing e.g. Fred has told you about the tactics used in a football match and you then tell Bill about this. You will probably not give Fred the credit for providing you with this information as this would slow down the conversation and it is something we tend not to do naturally in conversation. However In any writing, especially academic writing it is vital that you say what the source of your information is even though you are writing it in your own words.   Below is a sample of plagiarism by paraphrasing and an alternative solution is provided. A paraphrased example must be cited and referenced. You do this as you would a word-for-word quote. Have a look at the following examples of paraphrasing.


What about collusion? In many instances we actively encourage students to work together. Often students learn best from their peers, chatting over a coffee about some work problem can often help. However when it comes to assessed work it is imperative that this work is your own. If you have worked on a problem with someone else you must acknowledge which part is your own individual contribution and which is a joint effort. You will be awarded marks for your contribution not the joint effort but this is far better than trying to pass off all the work as your own and falling foul of plagiarism charges. It can be difficult for you to determine whether you are guilty of collusion so here are some examples of collusion referring to computing students which will help.


When to give credit

How plagiarism can be detected

Whilst the use of computers has made plagiarism easier to do they have also facilitated more ease of detection though the many software tools developed to detect plagiarism.  There are electronic systems such as Turnitin, and 
Moss (for a Measure Of Software Similarity) which can and are being used.  Programs written by students which are almost identical with only variable names changed can be detected by Moss. There are many references to the various software available and evidence of its effectiveness especially with computer programming (Cullin 1999).

Other indicators of plagiarism are students written vocabulary suddenly changes, paragraphs do not flow  together which suggests the use of cut and paste. "Readers tend not to cheat and cheaters tend not to read" (Evans 2000) - students leave comments such as "as shown in diagram 1a" when no diagram was intended to be provided - not an accident it is simply that the student has not even read thoroughly what they had copied.

How to avoid plagiarism

So we have an idea of what plagiarism and now we must learn how to avoid it. We must include in out text where the sources of the information came from and to do this we must reference the work.

Referencing work

The University Library web site has a good web page about how to reference with examples and it is worth taking time to read this. The library outlines key terms and description of two recommended methods of referencing [Durham University Library]

Key Terms

University Library recommended systems of referencing:

A paraphrased example must be cited. You cite a paraphrased example as you would a word-for-word quote. Paraphrasing is a condensed version of another author's work, or putting the author's words into your own words.

With EndNote software you can create a personalised database of references.

The software allows you to enter references yourself or import them from a database (such as PsycInfo, the UQ Library catalogue or any other library catalogue).

From this, you can then create a bibliography for your thesis, assignment or journal article in the citation style you require

Useful resources

There are many sites which discuss plagiarism. The following URL's are useful and you should have a look at them, however this is not a comprehensive list and if you do a Google search on "plagiarism" you will get many results..


The layout of the following references follow the MLA guidelines (URL above). The important thing to remember is to be consistent in whichever method you choose. Some disciplines specify their own reference style.

Cullin D., "Email ‘cheating’ students face mass expulsion" The Register, 15th August 1999, Accessed June 2004,

Evans J.A., "The New Plagiarism in Higher Education: From Selection to Reflection", Interactions Vol 4 No.2, 2000, Accessed June 2004


Rook C, "Avoiding Collusion", Plagiarism Advisory Service, Northumbria University, 2003, Accessed June 10th 2004,

Durham University Library "Writing your Bibliography and Citing References" University of Durham (UoD)March 2003, Accessed June 2004


Many thanks to the School of Education, Indiana University Bloomington, and the
University of Leeds for allowing the use of their examples and explanations of plagiarism in this tutorial.

Test your knowledge

Having looked at the examples provided in section X now try this quiz.  The quiz has been designed using Question Mark which is available on the ITS PC network.  You can take this quiz as many times as you require. You will find another quiz designed by Indiana University in the Useful Resources section below.

Quick Tips

Tip for paraphrasing:

Tip for direct quotes:

Last updated June 2004