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RMIT University Library - Learning Lab



Plagiarism can be either deliberate, unintentional or sometimes due to poor referencing techniques. Complete the following activity to test your knowledge of plagiarism.


Which of the following (A, B, or C) do the following situations fall into?

  1. poor referencing technique
  2. unintentional plagiarism
  3. deliberate plagiarism

Situation 1: You state an idea that is widely discussed in a number of sources but you only cite one of these.

Answer: A. poor referencing technique

Feedback: Not plagiarism. Leaving out extra references is not plagiarism, but listing multiple references where possible makes that claim stronger because it is widely accepted.

Situation 2: Two students work together finding sources and discuss an assignment that they must submit individually. There is great similarity in their arguments and citations.

Answer: B. unintentional plagiarism

Unintentional plagiarism. The claims/ideas that the student included in his assignment are (in part) inspired or sourced from his friend. Working together on individual assignments leads to accidental plagiarism like this. You need to keep careful record of any ideas that belong to another student and cite them (as personal communications). These students should also find more references between the two of them to make their reference lists different as well.

Situation 3: A student bases their essay around an essay that their friend submitted for that subject the previous year.

Answer: C. deliberate plagiarism

Clearly plagiarism. This is representing the work of another person as your own. The fact that the submissions are separated in time makes no difference.

Situation 4: A student copies large amounts of text because they find it too difficult to change the language. They cite the author and the date.

Answer: B. unintentional plagiarism

Unintentional plagiarism. If you use the exact wording of a text, you must enclose those words in quotation marks and include the page or paragraph number in the citation. Otherwise, it appears that you have crafted those words. The student needs to develop some paraphrasing strategies.

Situation 5: Several citations are placed at the end of the paragraph so it is very difficult to decide what information is sourced from which article.

Answer: A. poor referencing technique

Not plagiarism. Listing all references at the end of a paragraph is not blatant plagiarism but it is not up to academic standard. The information needs to be easily traced to its original source and therefore the citation should be placed as close to the information as possible.

Situation 6: A student uses large sections of another essay that they previously wrote and submitted for a related subject at another university.

Answer: C. deliberate plagiarism

Plagiarism. You need to cite ideas or text as a reference if it is from work that has already been submitted for academic credit. This is so, even if you wrote it yourself! Any essay that has been submitted previously is recorded in Turnitin.

Situation 7: John uses an essay that his friend bought online last year but the friend did not submit it because he discontinued his course.

Answer: C. deliberate plagiarism

Clearly plagiarism. Although John did not purchase the essay, he is still representing the efforts and ideas of somebody else as his own.