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Plagiarism means citing or paraphrasing the words or ideas of someone else and presenting them as your own. Plagiarism is intellectual theft and is considered academic misconduct. Degree programme Boards of Examiners take plagiarism very seriously (see for example the Faculty of Arts Teaching and Examination Regulations, Article 13b). Plagiarism is not necessarily deliberate; it can also arise from ignorance, carelessness or sloppiness. In order to avoid accidentally committing plagiarism, you must know what it involves.

What is plagiarism?

  • literally copying the work (or parts thereof) of others without indicating that it concerns someone else’s words and/or mentioning the exact place where the text was found.
  • paraphrasing the work (or parts thereof) of others without indicating that it concerns someone else’s ideas and mentioning the exact place where the ideas were found.
  • copying ideas from someone else’s work without indicating that they are someone else's ideas.

Plagiarism can in principle be avoided by being careful in your use of sources.

Frequently asked questions about plagiarism

Is it enough if I simply list all my sources at the end of the text?

Although this type of source referencing is widely used in non-academic and popular-scientific genres (such as newspaper and magazine articles), in academic texts you must provide references whenever you use a source.

If I say something in my own words, do I still have to refer to sources?

Yes, authors of academic texts must mention their sources when they use other people’s ideas, even if they summarize or paraphrase them. Source referencing should also be regarded as an expression of respect and reward for the other person’s efforts and achievements.

Do I have to mention a source for every statement I make?

The trick is to make a distinction between information that you should credit someone for and information that can be considered evident and generally known. If you mention the start and end dates of the Twelve Years’ Truce, or assert that information technology exercises a great influence on contemporary society, there is no need to refer to a source, as these are generally known or accepted facts. When in doubt, choose the safe route – it is better to include too many sources than too few. As you acquire more experience in reading academic texts you will gain more and more insight into how professional academics in your field of study refer to sources, and it will thus become increasingly easy to make these decisions yourself too.

I can’t always remember whether I thought of something myself or read it somewhere.

Carefully keeping notes will help prevent this problem. Indicate literal citations with quotation marks when you make notes while reading literature and jot down where (in which publication and on which page) you found both these quotes and the ideas that you paraphrase.


  • J. Heilbron, M. van Bottenburg and I. Geesink.
  • U. Eco
  • M. Procter
Last modified:25 August 2023 09.41 a.m.
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