What is plagiarism?

What is plagiarism?

So what exactly is plagiarism? The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines it as:

plagiarism / n
"the taking and using as one's own ... the thoughts, writings, or inventions of another"

So, the first part refers to pretending something is your own work when it isn't. The second explains that this applies to not just words, but also ideas, data, images and so on. Here's an example: George Harrison (My Sweet Lord) versus The Chiffons (He’s So Fine). Harrison was found to have committed ‘unconscious' copying and had to pay royalties. The Music Copyright Infringement Resource lists some interesting examples of cases of music plagiarism that went to court.


Images are also the products of other people's work and should be treated in the same way as a piece of writing. Many people assume that if an image is made available on the internet, then it is all right to download and use it. This is not so! However, there are many sources of copyright cleared images - we have listed them on our web page.


Computer code should be treated as writing. Even though it does not look the same, people still work hard to create it. Every programmer has his or her own style of coding, and experienced lecturers can spot a sudden change of style immediately! If one of your classmates allows you to use a portion of their code, and you do so without crediting them, then this counts as collusion and you can be penalised for it. So, if you use code from a classmate, or an open web site, you should always credit the source in your written work and in the coding screen itself.

GCU has clear rules on plagiarism. You can find them in your module handbook or the GCU website. When you submit an assignment, it is run through Turnitin which is an online plagiarism detection service. It is very accurate so plagiarists are always found out.