Preventing plagiarism

An introduction to university expectations for originality and how to use the Turnitin facility to avoid plagiarism.

This section will cover the following:

  1. To clearly define plagiarism and outline different types
  2. To provide information on how to avoid plagiarism
  3. To introduce Turnitin and its uses
  4. Student responsibilities
  5. Resources

1. What is plagiarism?

The University policy states that 'plagiarism is the representation of others works of another person/other persons as though they are one's own by failing to properly acknowledge that person/ those persons'

To put it simply, plagiarism is using the ideas and evidence of someone else's work without properly acknowledging it. It is vital that you have an understanding of what plagiarism is and the types of plagiarism that exist. Most students don't set out to intentionally plagiarise the work of others, however students can be accused of plagiarism when they fail to cite a source correctly or forget to list a reference in their assignment.

Watch a video on plagiarism:

Plagiarism can take many forms which include:

  • Verbatim copying of information: Copying and pasting a section of work and presenting it as your own.
  • Sham paraphrasing: Copying material word for word and acknowledging the work as a paraphrase (Walker, 1998).
  • Illicit paraphrasing: Not quoting but using the words of a source and not acknowledging it (Walker, 1998).
  • Self-plagiarism: Recycling parts of an old assignment without acknowledgement or permission from the course coordinator.
  • Bullying: Stealing the work of others and presenting it as your own.

2. How to avoid plagiarism

Here are some strategies that you can use in your own studies to avoid plagiarism:

  1. Acknowledge all sources correctly
    It is vital to properly acknowledge all material that has been used in an assignment. As a general rule, any statements that you make must be supported with a reference/evidence. However, if the information that you use is common knowledge this type of information doesn't need to be referenced. For example, Canberra is the capital city of Australia
    You will also need to familiarise yourself with the type of referencing system that is used in your particular school. View more information on referencing.
  2. Avoid copying large amounts of work
    Secondly, avoid copying large amounts of information and evidence from particular sources. Use a smaller amount of information and put it into your own words.
  3. Seek help
    Thirdly, if you are uncertain or need any clarification regarding referencing there are plenty of resources or assistance that you can access to ensure that you are correctly acknowledging the sources that you have used. The University website has a range of resources that you can access which includes the FedCite Referencing Guide, library skills classes, online referencing tutorial and videos, Turnitin, and the ASK service desk.
  4. Turnitin
    Turnitin is a web-based system that detects instances of textual similarity between your work and sources on the web. Turnitin works by comparing your work to other papers that have been submitted electronically, journal databases, and the internet. It is a great tool to help provide you with some guidance regarding referencing as any text matches found in your work indicate that you may not have cited a source correctly. Students are able to submit a piece of work and determine if they have correctly referenced the appropriate material that they have used in their assignment before their final submission.

3. Turnitin information

How does Turnitin work?

Students can check their assignments with Turnitin before final submission. Turnitin works by comparing student assignments to Internet content, journal databases and a global database of student assignments. Turnitin uses advanced pattern-making technology to identify similar passages of text in submitted documents. The system returns originality reports that provide details of the similarity found. Turnitin works by comparing submitted documents against proprietary databases, containing millions of books and journals and over six billion pages of the current and archived internet.

What does Turnitin do?

The results are returned in the form of customised originality reports, in which any text matches found are highlighted and linked to their source. The reports allow students and teaching staff to interpret similarity matches and determine whether any potential plagiarism has occurred.

Turnitin does not...

Form conclusions about whether plagiarism has occurred or not. Turnitin only returns a percentage similarity percentage and links to those sources where similarity is detected. The Unit Coordinator will determine (in accordance with FedUni's Student Plagiarism Policy) whether any plagiarism has occurred.

Self-assessing your work using Turnitin

Students may self-assess their work using Turnitin. Do not use this option if you have been asked to submit to Turnitin as an assessment requirement in your course. You can enrol yourself into a Moodle course containing links to Turnitin.

4. Student responsibilities

  • Understand and comply with the legislation, policy, guidance notes and procedures of the University regarding plagiarism and seek help if you do not understand the requirements.
  • Be familiar with, and apply, the referencing practices acceptable to the University and detailed in the General Guide to the Presentation of Academic Work.
  • Ensure that all sources of information are appropriately acknowledged.
  • Check and improve assessable tasks using plagiarism prevention and detection software provided by the University (where it is mandated in the course by the statement in the unit/course description or made available through other means), prior to final submission.
  • Proactively and continually develop their academic literacy skills.
  • Take all reasonable precautions to ensure work cannot be copied.

5. Resources

Having problems?

Contact the Service Desk


Walker, J. (1998). Student Plagiarism in Universities: What Are We Doing About it?. Higher Education Research and Development, 17(1), 89-105.