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Academic Plagiarism

Plagiarism is generally considered to be the wrongful appropriation of another author's intellectual property that is represented as one’s own original work. While it is true that scientists rarely work completely alone and research findings are often built on previous work, clear rules and methods apply to using other authors’ work. Breaking these rules is called plagiarism.

Scientific discourse and the exchange of ideas and findings depend on all participants adhering to certain academic standards. One of the most important of these standards is the correct citation of the ideas your own work is based on. Correct citation is not only intended to give credit to the original author, it also provides readers with important information about additional sources on the topic.

Using these rules correctly is also in your own best interest, because in doing so, you demonstrate your own grasp of the topic. Plagiarists often do themselves more harm than good: By taking a “short cut,” they fail to learn the research, writing, and analytical thinking skills they would have mastered by doing the work themselves.

What’s more, plagiarism doesn’t just go against academic standards. In many cases plagiarism is also a copyright violation, which is a crime and punishable by law.

Plagiarism includes:

  • Passing off other people’s work as one’s own (ghostwriting)
  • Downloading texts (or parts of texts) from the internet and passing them off as one’s own
  • Using translations of works (or parts of works) written in another language in one’s own text without referencing the sources
  • Quoting passages from other works without referencing the sources
  • Handing in the same text (or parts of the same text) more than once in different seminars

Teachers can often easily pinpoint plagiarism with a simple online search or by using plagiarism detection software. At WU, all students are required to upload their bachelor’s theses to Learn@WU so their supervisor can subject the theses to plagiarism testing before they are accepted for grading.

WU’s position on plagiarism is clear: Plagiarism is a serious violation of academic integrity and is punished accordingly. This means that plagiarism will have extremely serious consequences. Further information on the consequences of confirmed cases of plagiarism are available here for the German-language bachelor's programs and here for the English-taught program.

Writing an academic thesis can be challenging. One of these challenges can be determining exactly where another autor's ideas end and your own work begins. Keep the following in mind while writing: 

When writing an academic text, the point is to demonstrate your grasp of the material, not so much to write perfectly formulated sentences. By independently and critically addressing the concepts, you show that you have understood and mastered them.

Research carefully, but remember that just searching for information is not the main core of your work. It is more important to show how you have processed the information.