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MPhil in African Studies Plagiarism Guidelines


Plagiarism is defined by the University in its Statement on Plagiarism as 'submitting as one's own work, irrespective of intent to deceive, that which derives in part or in its entirety from the work of others without due acknowledgement. It is both poor scholarship and a breach of academic integrity.' You can find the full statement at

The definition embraces equally the presentation of an entire essay or thesis written by someone else and the inclusion in your work of text written by others but not properly identified as such, for example through improper use of quotation marks and citations. It also includes the use of footnotes and any other material (such as tables or graphs) obtained from secondary works that are not clearly cited as the source. 

Any suspicion that a student may have engaged in plagiarism has to be reported to the Senior Proctor. 

The danger of plagiarising should be particularly kept in mind when writing a dissertation. You will be expected to have a solid grasp of existing publications relevant to the dissertation topic, but the work that you submit must be your own, and the contribution of others fully acknowledged. It is crucially important to maintain a clear distinction between your own ideas and views derived deom the published literature or presented by others in seminars. If you present ideas as your own which are in fact drawn from the work of others, you run the risk of being penalised by the examiners as well as being disciplined by the University.  Note that these guidelines are generally relevant to any and all written work you may submit, including the essays for the taught courses as well as the thesis. If you practice good note-taking from the start, you should be able to avoid any inadvertent use of the work of others.

Examples of plagiarism include:

  • Quoting verbatim another person's work without due acknowledgement of the source.
  • Paraphrasing another person's work by changing some of the words, or the order of the words, without due acknowledgement of the source.
  • Using ideas taken from someone else without reference to the originator.
  • Cutting and pasting from the Internet to make a compilation of online sources
  • Submitting someone else's work as part of your own without identifying clearly who did the work. For example, buying or commissioning work via professional agencies such as 'essay banks' or 'paper mills', or not attributing research contributed by others to a joint project.
Plagiarism might also arise from colluding with another person, including another candidate, other than as permitted for joint project work (i.e. where collaboration is concealed or has been forbidden). A candidate should include a general acknowledgement where he or she has received substantial help, for example with the language and style of a piece of written work. 
While it is understood that some students may need or desire editorial help, particularly if English is not their first language, the precise type of assistance received in writing an essay and from whom it was received should be explicitly stated in a footnote or acknowledgement. Proofreading, reading drafts, and suggesting general improvements are not collusion and students are encouraged to obtain a third party view on their essays. However, for example, if a supervisor or another student carried out a detailed redraft of the entire conclusion portion of an essay, this would be considered collusion. 
Plagiarism can occur in respect to all types of sources and media:
  • Text, illustrations, musical quotations, mathematical derivations, computer code, etc.
  • Material downloaded from websites or drawn from manuscripts or other media.
  • Published and unpublished material, including lecture hand outs and other students' work. 

How to avoid plagiarism

The stylistic conventions for different subjects vary and you should consult your Course Director or Supervisor about the conventions pertaining to your particular subject area. Most courses will issue written guidance on the relevant scholarly conventions and you are expected to have read and to follow this advice. However, the main points are:

  • When presenting the view and work of others, include in the text an indication of the source of the material, e.g. ‘As Sharpe (1993) has shown,’ and give full details of the work quoted in your bibliography.
  • If you quote text verbatim, place the sentence in inverted commas and give the appropriate reference e.g. “The elk is of necessity less graceful than the gazelle” (Thompson, 1942, p46) and give the full details in your bibliography as above.
  • If you wish to set out the work of another at length so that you can produce a counter-argument, set the quoted text apart from your own text (e.g. by indenting a paragraph) and identify it by using inverted commas and adding a reference as above. NB long quotations may infringe copyright, which exists for the life of the author plus another seventy years.
  • If you are copying text, keep a note of the author and the reference as you go along, with the copied text, so that you will not mistakenly think the material to be your own work when you return to it after a period of time.
  • If you reproduce an illustration or include someone else’s data in a graph, include the reference to the original work in the legend, e.g. (figure redrawn from Webb, 1976) or (triangles = data from Webb, 1976).
  • If you wish to collaborate with another person on your project, you should check with your supervisor whether this might be allowed and then obtain permission (for research degrees, the permission of the Board of Graduate Studies must be sought).
  • If you have been authorised to work together with another candidate or other researchers, you must acknowledge their contribution fully in your introductory section. If there is likely to be any doubt as to who contributed which part of the work, you should make this clear in the text wherever necessary, e.g. ‘I am grateful to A. Smith for analysing the sodium content of these samples.’
  • Be especially careful if cutting and pasting work from electronic media; do not fail to attribute the work to its source. If authorship of the electronic source is unclear or not given, ask yourself whether it is worth copying.


The examiners must be in no doubt as to which parts of your work are your own original work and which are the rightful property of someone else!

Use of originality checking software

The University subscribes to a service named ‘Turnitin’ which provides an electronic means of checking students’ work against a very large database of material from the internet, published sources and other student essays. This service also helps to protect the work submitted by students from future plagiarism and thereby maintain the integrity of any qualifications awarded to you by the University. The copyright of the material remains entirely with the author, and no personal data will be uploaded with the work.