Avoiding Plagiarism in Your Research Degree

Research Student WorkingIn an academic context, plagiarism implies using the work, ideas, or expressions of others as if they were your own.

At research degree level there are no excuses for plagiarism - research students are expected to know what plagiarism is and be able to manage their academic writing so as to avoid intentional or unintentional plagiarism. Failure to do so can result in severe penalties including termination of registration.

Your Guide to Avoiding Plagiarism Academic Writing Study Guides
The Graduate School's Top Tips to Avoid Plagiarism in Your Research Degree:
  1. Understand what plagiarism is and why it happens
  2. Fully reference and acknowledge the work of others
  3. Use your own words and develop your own writing style
  4. Organise and structure your work in your own way
  5. Don't be afraid to express your own views

Learn more - Avoiding Plagiarism Study Guide

Online study guides from Learning Development to help you improve your academic writing:

Improving the quality of your academic writing only comes with practice - start writing early on in your research degree, and write regularly.

If you need further help, seek feedback from your supervisors.

Avoiding Plagiarism Online Tutorials - "Don't Cheat Yourself"

"Don’t Cheat Yourself" is an interactive online tutorial designed by Learning Development.

Although aimed at taught students, all research students are strongly encouraged to make time at the start of their research degree to use the version for their subject to help you to understand what plagiarism is and how to avoid it.

Managing References in Your Thesis

You will need to reference your thesis fully and accurately both to acknowledge your debts to others and to allow your readers to distinguish your ideas from those of others that you have drawn on.

There are three key rules that you should follow:

  1. speak with your supervisors early on for advice on referencing conventions in your discipline - the two main ones are the Harvard (author/date) system and the Vancouver (numbered) system, but in the School of Law the Oxford Standard for the Citation of Legal Authorities (OSCOLA) is used
  2. your references must be accurate - having inaccurate references is as bad as having no references at all and potentially could lead to you being accused of poor academic practice or plagiarism
  3. your referencing must be consistent - make sure that your formatting of references with respect to capitalisation and punctuation is consistent all the way through your thesis

If you need general advice on how to ensure your thesis is appropriately referenced, take a look at the Referencing and Bibliographies Study Guide.

The University Library also offer detailed guides on using the Harvard Referencing and Vancouver Referencing systems.

Bibliographic software allows you to create databases of references which can then be stored, searched and used in conjunction with MS Word to input citations as you write your thesis. The two main types of bibliographic software are EndNote and RefWorks. The University Library offer advice on accessing and using bibliographic software.

Use of Published Work Within Research Degree Theses

You may wish in your thesis to re-use work which you have authored and which has already been published elsewhere.

Research degree theses may include:

  • complete specimens of published work that you have authored and which are submitted in support of the thesis


  • material from published work that you have authored and which has been re-worked and incorporated within the main body of the thesis

The inclusion within the thesis of work that has been accepted for publication must not be taken as a guarantee that the thesis will meet the requirements for the award of a research degree. The decision to award a degree rests with the examining team.

In all cases, published work may be used in these ways provided that:

  1. the published work was written during your period of registration at the University and represents work undertaken wholly or mainly by you
  2. where the published work represents a collaborative effort the thesis must include a statement as to the nature of your contribution as well as an acknowledgement of the contribution of others
  3. the thesis acknowledges where the published work has been submitted for examination at the University or elsewhere by a co-author
  4. standard rules regarding plagiarism and academic honesty are adhered to

It is your responsibility to ensure that the use of published work within the thesis complies with any applicable copyright restrictions.

If you intend to provide complete specimens of published work in support of the thesis, these must be presented as appendices to the main body of the thesis. Appendices will count toward the maximum word limit as specified above.

Complete specimens of published work that are submitted in support of the thesis must:

  • be relevant to the research question(s) addressed by the thesis


  • have appeared in print or have been accepted for publication
Important Notice - Penalties for Plagiarism

The University’s primary functions of teaching and research involve a search for knowledge and the truthful recording of the findings of that search.

Any action that is knowingly taken by a research student which involves misrepresentation of the truth will be considered as academic dishonesty and as such is an offence which the University believes should merit the application of very severe penalties - normally plagiarism will result in a recommendation that your registration is terminated.

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