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Avoid Plagiarism – Distance Learning

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As an educational institution, UK Distance Learning & Publishing takes a very dim view of plagiarism, or any other form of cheating. Hopefully, this article will help you when trying to avoid plagiarism.

Plagiarism By Accident

It is actually possible to plagiarise by accident, or to think that you have acknowledged a source but not do it in the correct manner. UK Distance Learning applies different standards depending on which course our students are taking. This doesn’t mean that we accept plagiarism in any of our courses, but we are more flexible about the extent of referencing that we require. For our higher level, full national qualifications, such as an A-Level, we require that student’s use the Harvard referencing system. In lower level courses, or options that aren’t full national qualifications, we simply ask that any sources used are clearly acknowledged in the assignment. The best way to avoid plagiarism is to provide as much information about the source as possible.



Avoid Plagiarism – Distance Learning

Copying or Paraphrasing?

This all sounds quite straightforward, but it’s amazing how often students trip up over what needs to be ‘acknowledged’ and what doesn’t. Of course, there are students who know they are being rather naughty, copying and pasting whole pages off Wikipedia and trying to pass it off as their own work. When we get these kinds of assignments we simply reply with a wry smile and a polite ‘try again’. This is very rare, however. What we have to deal with much more often are people who have read something and then paraphrased it. Sometimes this is done as a way to deliberately mask plagiarism, but more often it’s because people honestly believe that ‘plagiarism’ and ‘copying’ are the same thing. They are not.



If you copy something, then you are reproducing a word-for-word replica. Plagiarising something can be much more subtle. Imagine that you tell me you’re going to write an essay entitled ‘Why UK Distance Learning & Publishing is Brilliant’, and you show me a copy in advance. I then go away and write an essay called ‘The Brilliance of UK Distance Learning & Publishing’. When you read it, you realise that my essay is making all the same points that your essay made — UKDLP has amazing student service; the tutors are kind and helpful; the people who write their news articles are extremely handsome and witty etc. I haven’t copied anything, as it’s all written in my own words. Have I plagiarised?

Our answer would be ‘yes’. The words themselves are irrelevant — I have stolen something much more important: ideas.


But, I hear you cry, isn’t it good to use outside sources to get ideas? Yes it is, but there are better ways of doing it. If, in my hypothetical essay, I had acknowledged where the ideas came from, citing the original essay as my source, and then built on these ideas, my essay would have been much stronger, and not plagiaristic. For example, if there was a passage in the original saying ‘UKDLP is a great company because it offers the chance to get access to a range of student discounts’, I could write: UKDLP is brilliant as it offers a ‘range of student discounts’ (Someguy, 2017). In addition, it also extends discounts on its courses to members of the armed services. This demonstrates that UKDLP is dedicated to providing value for money’. This way, I’m clearly acknowledging where the original idea came from, but I’m offering further information and interpretation. This is the key to using outside sources. You should only include ideas that aren’t your own if you can add to them, or offer an interesting interpretation of them. Otherwise, why should anyone bother reading what you’ve written, if they can just go to the original?

Harvard System to Avoid Plagiarism

This has been a very basic guide in how to avoid plagiarism. However, please do remember that if you’re doing an A-Level or similar kind of course, we do also ask that you adhere to the rather fiddly Harvard system. We put all of those details in our study guides, and ask that you do your best to follow them. However, the main points to remember with any UK Distance Learning & Publishing course are to acknowledge, build on and interpret your sources. So long as you make an honest effort to do these things, you can’t go too far wrong.



Avoid Plagiarism – Distance Learning