Plagiarism

In this section, plagiarism and other forms of academic misconduct in writing are reviewed, and advice is given on how to avoid the risk of plagiarising.

Scholarly work relies on previous publications and results, and writers often need to acknowledge the work of others in order to position their own research. All use of previous research and any other kind of external sources must be accounted for in a correct way, for reasons of clarity, as well as for reasons of academic integrity.

On this page, the following aspects are discussed:

What is plagiarism?

The word 'plagiarism' is usually defined as the use of someone else's text or idea without a proper reference. This means that writers who use, but who do not account for, other people's texts and ideas, are plagiarising.

A note on spelling: 'plagiarise' can also be spelled 'plagiarize'. In British English, both forms are accepted, and in American English, the form 'plagiarize' is used.

Definition: Lexical definitions of 'plagiarism' (click to expand/contract)

Oxford English Dictionary

plagiarism, noun
1. The action or practice of taking someone else's work, idea, etc., and passing it off as one's own; literary theft.

2. A particular idea, piece of writing, design, etc., which has been plagiarized; an act or product of plagiary.

plagiarize, verb
Originally of writers, later also of composers, artists, etc.: to take and use as one's own (the thoughts, writings, or inventions of another person); to copy (literary work or ideas) improperly or without acknowledgement; (occas.) to pass off as one's own the thoughts or work of (another).


Plagiarism does not only refer to the inappropriate use of written text, but of all "thoughts, writings or inventions of another person" (Oxford English Dictionary). This means that the notion of plagiarism also includes, for instance,

  • ideas
  • illustrations
  • computer code
  • music
  • organising principles (this refers to original structures, for instance diagrams and lists)

Intentional or unintentional plagiarism

Note that the term plagiarism is often used in a broad sense, meaning both intentional and unintentional plagiarism. Intentional plagiarism is, for instance, the deliberate copying of someone else's work, whereas unintentional plagiarism often happens due to reckless misrepresentation or lack of knowledge about rules of writing.

Read more about the risk of unintentional plagiarism, and how to avoid it, in the following AWELU sections:

In recent years, much research has been done on the writing of university students, and studies show that there is a correlation between the writers' level of language and disciplinary proficiency and plagiarism.

Abasi, Akbari and Graves (2006), for instance, discuss the 'textual identities' that ESL (English as Second Language) graduate students construct in their writing. Their research shows that texts by students who have not yet mastered the style and language of their discipline demonstrate a lack of originality which may result in plagiarism.

Although unintentional plagiarism may be explained by the writers' lack of knowledge of how to write an academic text and of how to give proper credit to sources, this is no excuse. Lund University has strict rules regarding plagiarism and it is always the responsibility of the writer to adhere to the regulations of academic writing.

LU definition of plagiarism

According to the LU policy on plagiarism (2012),

Plagiarism is a lack of independence in the design and/or wording of academic work presented by a student compared to the level of independence required by the educational context.

Deceitful plagiarism is a lack of independence combined with an intent on the part of the student to present the work of others as his or her own.

Writers need to make a distinction between what are their own ideas and material, and what refers to the work of others. As discussed elsewhere on the AWELU platform, this is one of the main challenges faced by non-native writers and writers who are new to the field and terminology:

For further examples of guidelines on academic integrity and plagiarism, see

Why is plagiarism wrong?

There are several reasons why plagiarism is wrong and why it is regarded as a serious offence within Lund University:

Writers need to help their readers

In order to help the reader find more information on the subject that is discussed, writers need to give clear references to the sources that have been used, unless the fact stated can be regarded as common knowledge among the intended readers.

Related information can be found here:

Plagiarism is cheating

Anyone who plagiarises may get undeserved advantages over his or her peers. Student plagiarism is, therefore, unfair towards teachers and fellow students, as well as towards the reputation of Lund University as a whole. Plagiarism among researchers is likewise detrimental, both on an individual and on a more general level.

Related information can be found here:

Plagiarism is theft

The Oxford English Dictionary defines plagiarism as 'literary theft'. In line with the concept of ideas as individual property, writers need to be honest about the origin of stated facts, terms, ideas, etc., and must show what parts of their text are original and what parts come from other people's texts or other kinds of material.

Plagiarism issues dealt with on the AWELU platform

In order to avoid plagiarism, it is important for writers to be aware of different kinds of  plagiarism and of related forms of academic misconduct:

For reasons of academic integrity, credit must always be given to facts that cannot be seen as common knowledge (that is, known to those who are the intended readers of the text, in a wide sense). Read more in the AWELU section called:

With the Internet, plagiarism has become easier in the sense that material can be accessed with less effort than before. The increase of online collective publication forms has also led to the misunderstanding that material that has been collectively published could be regarded as collectively owned in the sense that no references are needed.