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Plagiarism involves taking another person's ideas, words or inventions and presenting them as your own. Paraphrasing or rewording another person's work, without acknowledging its source, is also plagiarism.

In Western academic culture this is a totally unacceptable practice and considered a serious academic offence. There are heavy penalties, such as failing a course or even worse — being thrown out of university. See The University of Auckland's guidelines on academic integrity.

To avoid plagiarism

All material, whether directly quoted, summarised or paraphrased, MUST be acknowledged correctly.

To achieve this:

  • Always clearly indicate the quoted material with quotation marks or indentation of the text as appropriate.
  • Keep an accurate record of your sources of information while reading, surfing the net, and note-taking. Make a habit of recording the 'vital statistics' of all your reading. This means the author, date of publication, title, publisher, page numbers, URL, etc. Here's a pocket guide on the information to record for different sources.
  • Learn the appropriate referencing style of your department.
  • Be totally consistent in all your references, as well as in your bibliography.
  • Keep your readers in mind - research material you've used must be easily traced back to the original source.
  • Also see the page outlining when you need to reference.

Three ways of incorporating other's work into your writing

  1. A quotation is the words of another writer reproduced exactly in terms of wording, spelling, punctuation, capitalisation and paragraphing. More on quoting ...
  2. A paraphrase is your version of essential ideas and information expressed by someone else. More on paraphrasing ...
  3. A summary is less detailed than a paraphrase, and significantly shorter than the original, rephrasing just the main points.


All require a reference

The benefits of drawing on other peoples ideas
Quoting, summarising and paraphrasing are used to:

  • Provide support for claims or add credibility to your writing.
  • Cite different points of view.
  • Integrate information by assessing, comparing, contrasting or evaluating it, to show understanding.
  • Emphasise a position that you agree or disagree with.
  • Refer to other research that leads up to your study.
  • Highlight a pertinent point by quoting the original.

When to quote

  • When the wording of the original is memorable or vivid and you can't re-write it to sound any better.
  • When the exact words of an authority would lend support to your own ideas.
  • When you want to draw attention to the author's opinion, especially if that opinion differs greatly from other experts' opinions.

When to paraphrase or summarise

  • When the ideas are more important than the author's authority or style.
  • When the original language isn't particularly memorable, but the ideas are.
  • When the original language is too difficult to understand (for instance, when the particular jargon or complexity of the original work is so difficult to understand that you need to paraphrase it so that the meaning is immediately clear).
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