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Ask the librarian - The Open College of the Arts

To find out more details about the transfer to The Open University see A New Chapter for OCA.

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Ask the librarian

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism means deliberately or accidentally using someone else’s work or ideas as if they were your own. Work means any intellectual output, and typically includes text, data, images, sound or performance and includes material downloaded from electronic sources. Deliberately plagiarising work whilst you are at OCA can have very serious consequences, which is why it’s important to follow good academic practices and to reference your work properly.

Plagiarism and Collusion

Plagiarism is deemed to have occurred where:
  • A student copies another person’s work without acknowledgement of the source; simple changes to words or the order of presentation of sections or paragraphs does not avoid this categorisation.
  • A student copies some or all of another person’s art and design work, including work of other students, without acknowledgement.
  • A student substitutes another’s work as though it was their own.
  • A student appropriates another’s research work or ideas without acknowledgement.
  • A student sources work from the Internet or contracts with another party for work to be done.
Collusion is where a student either:
  • Submits work done in collaboration with another as entirely their own; or
  • Collaborates with another student to complete work which is submitted as that other student’s work.

Where students are instructed or encouraged to work together in the pursuit of an assignment or other assessed task, such activity is regarded as approved collaboration and not collusion, although there may be a requirement for each student to identify their own contribution.

Unintentional plagiarism

Unintentional plagiarism happens when you do not have a clear understanding of what plagiarism is. It is also often attributed to poor referencing, citing and quoting skills.

Unintentional plagiarism occurs when:
  • You have not been taught how to paraphrase properly – paraphrasing takes skill and practice.
  • When you try to put information from a source into your own words (paraphrasing) but fail to do so completely.
  • You have cut and pasted a reference from a source but have forgotten to reference the source.
  • You have failed to indicate that some text is a direct quote.
  • You have paraphrased a chapter and included the source in the reference list, but not acknowledged the source in the text.
  • You have composed a paragraph by joining sentences from a number of sources together and not acknowledged the sources in the text.

Visual plagiarism

Remember, it is just as important to reference your visual work.
This is a type of plagiarism in non-text-based practice, i.e. when using images in your studio and written work. While most public visual forms of communication have some sense and regulation of copyright, the particular issues of visual plagiarism in an academic context are much less visible. The information contained in these pages gives useful advice on what is/is not acceptable and links to teaching materials that will help explain the boundaries to students.

Related Links:

How to avoid plagiarism?

The most effective way to avoid an accusation of plagiarism is to reference correctly using the UCA Harvard Referencing system, making sure to cite all of your sources and have a bibliography at the end of your work.

  • use quotation marks around the words and cite the source, or
  • paraphrase or summarize acceptably and cite the source.
  • Plagiarism can be intentional or unintentional so be careful to reference all your sources. You can also use referencing management software to help you. 

Referencing correctly is a skill which takes time to develop. If you need help or support with referencing and improving your academic skills, speak with your tutor or contact the Librarian at [email protected]

What happens if I plagiarise?

Plagiarism will be treated as academic misconduct.

At OCA, an act of plagiarism or other form of academic misconduct constitutes a breach of our Plagiarism and Malpractice Policy as set out in the OCA’s Student Regulations, and as such will be treated very seriously.
If you need additional help, feel free to contact me directly (email [email protected])

Photo by jancarlo vazquez from Pexels

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Posted by author: Helen Barrett

2 thoughts on “Ask the librarian

  • Hi there,

    I’m a tutor on Visual Communication and would like to know what periodicals you have on-line that I can direct illustration and Graphic Design students towards, and also read myself!

    Thank you

    • Hi Melissa,
      I have emailed you a reply. Feel free to get back to me if you need more help.



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