9 August 2012 | Dmytro Bojaniwskyj
What constitutes plagiarism and how can students avoid being accused of it? Dmytro Bojaniwskyj explains.
In a hyper-linked, content-rich world of cut, paste and ‘like’, it can seem as if no thought, fact or deduction really belongs to anyone, but when it comes to CIPS assessment, your work needs to be authentic to you.
The purpose of assessment is to certify you; to support your claims to knowledge and competence when, for example, you apply for a job, give advice to others, or take the lead on a project.
Plagiarism cheats this process. It gives you a status you haven’t earned and perhaps don’t deserve. Getting caught erodes the trust placed in you as a professional, perhaps irreversibly.
CIPS considers plagiarism to be malpractice, an act that threatens the integrity of its qualifications. Somebody’s plagiarism that is later exposed devalues the assessment system for everyone.
Anybody – you, your lecturers, tutors, assessors, other students – who spots plagiarism has a duty to report it and it’s no surprise that getting caught is an automatic fail and can incur further penalties.
What is plagiarism?
Plagiarism is passing off work that belongs to other people as your own. It’s their intellectual property. This includes very different types of creation: research, assemblies of words, arguments, case studies, diagrams, tables – even quite intangible things like approaches and perspectives.
Plagiarism is lying and stealing. There’s no qualitative difference whether all of your work is copied, or just parts of it. It doesn’t matter whether the other person knows about it, or even if they approve; in assessment you must earn your own marks.
What should you do?
Nobody expects you to invent supply chain practice by yourself. A lot of it is common, public knowledge, but you cannot treat it as if it belongs to you. Some practice is clearly developed by and credited to particular people. This is protected, as are the ways in which other people have explained the more commonplace ideas.
You’re expected to demonstrate you have learnt supply chain practice and can apply it correctly in context. This means expressing what you’ve learnt in your own way in your solutions to assessment tasks.
This includes giving credit where credit is due, explicitly saying when someone else has originated the ideas, exact forms of words and images that you’re using. This process is called citation and reference, and CIPS has rules for it that you must follow.
There are no accidents
You can’t plead ignorance with plagiarism, as there are enough warnings and good practice guidelines for you to have no excuse. Even if you do shift the blame, your work will still be invalid. It’s possible to make mistakes – you cut and paste something, but forget to make it into a quote – but systematic copying is obvious. The quantity of your ‘accidents’ will seal the case against you.
Coincidences are unlikely
You claim your work is coincidentally similar to something else; there are only so many ways to express the same thing. Coincidence may work in small amounts, or on a broad outline level, but CIPS assessments require more than enough words and depth as to make sustained coincidence highly unlikely. You may also be asked to submit work electronically and evidence for copying may be found in your files.
Copyright is not ownership
You can’t copy from work you’ve done towards other assessments – this is ‘self-plagiarism’. You need to produce a new piece of work. If you took part in a piece of work with others, you cannot claim it’s all yours or not mention the other people; a joint enterprise cannot be submitted for assessment.
Just because you own something, you cannot claim to have created it. Buying copyright is not the same as being the author. Similarly, permission to use is not permission to take credit. Everything – ‘public domain’ and ‘open source’ material included – is credited to someone who you ought to acknowledge.
3 key points
1. Express yourself
Write in your own words, in your own way
2. Give credit
It substantiates your work and earns you marks
3. Cite like CIPS
Learn how to cite and reference ideas according to CIPS’ rules
☛ Dmytro Bojaniwskyj writes and develops learning materials for professional bodies and business schools