School of Nursing and Midwifery

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Why Use the Literature?

The range of literature (textbooks, research papers and other scholarly literature) available to you is now substantial. However, in using it you must be careful to avoid plagiarism. At this point in the work-package you may be asking – why bother using the literature at all if I run the risk of unwittingly plagiarising the work of other writers? There are two main reasons:
Citing/Citation: The act of referring to or giving formal credit to an original source.
Quotation: a fragment of a human expression that is being referred to by somebody else. Most often a quotation is taken from literature, but sentences from speeches, dialogue from films, and lines from song lyrics are also used.
Referencing: Citing (or citation) and referencing mean the same thing, and are often used interchangeably. Citing an information source used in an academic work means to employ a standardised method of acknowledging that source. Full details of the source must be given.
. During your University career you are expected not only to demonstrate that you are capable of original thinking but also that you can critique and synthesise the work of others.

University assignments rarely ask you simply for your opinion on a question. More often, they will ask you to review, appraise or synthesise the arguments of scholars and researchers in your field of study. This means that throughout your studies, you will be using the existing literature to develop and support arguments, or you may be required to critically analyse opinions, by discussing how they relate to published research. Even when you write up original data, you need to introduce it with a literature review, to place your data in the context of what is already known.
2. Skilled and appropriate use of the literature makes a valuable and important contribution to your own understanding of a topic and that of your readers.
Correct use of the literature, through accurate and appropriate citation, quotation and referencing will enable you to draw upon a substantial body of literature, both recent and historical.
When preparing essays, projects or other work, you will read widely and become familiar with the work of others. You need to ensure that the work you prepare is accepted as your own original work. When a tutor is assessing your work they are interested in your understanding of an idea. It is important that you use your own words to demonstrate such understanding. You are permitted to quote selectively from books and articles. However you must always give credit for any material that you have used back to its sources by means of quotation marks. In assessed essays, the author’s name plus the date of publication is usually placed in brackets each time that the author’s ideas (citation) or actual words (quotation) are used. You also need to provide a reference list that provides full references of all the material that you have used. The correct manner in which this should be done can be found in the programme handbook

The University of Sheffield Library Web Pages provide examples of guidance for the two main styles of referencing (Harvard – author/date and Vancouver – numeric) plus a guide to citing electronic sources.

This tutorial provides useful hints on how to use the literature most effectively and thus avoid the need to be overly concerned with plagiarism. It also includes a short practical exercise, which you should attempt to complete and submit before handing in your first course assignment for marking.

The Current Context for Plagiarism

High profile cases of “plagiarism” typically relate to fictional works, where large fees for royalties and film rights are at stake, as with The Da Vinci Code. Much more serious is academic plagiarism.
Plagiarism is dishonest for several reasons:

  • It does not recognise the original contribution of the original author.

  • It does not acknowledge the source of your ideas.

  • It makes unjust claims to original thinking and writing.

  • It attempts to gain an unfair advantage over other students, who complete assignments honestly and fairly according to University regulations.

  • In apparently demonstrating mastery of the arguments proposed by other authors you are laying claim to skills that you may not possess.

Plagiarism is an increasing problem for academic institutions and employing organisations. With large blocks of electronic text freely available on the internet and from e-journals, it has become easy to “cut and paste” an essay together very quickly. Students may unwisely choose to search for topics in general search engines or database indices, and lift text from retrieved documents. This is a gross form of plagiarism. Since you are not reading or reflecting on the articles you find to develop your own ideas, you are not gaining the skills that the assignment is designed to teach.

What is Collusion?

Collusion occurs when two or more people work together to produce a piece of work, all or part of which is then submitted by each member of the group as their own individual effort (University of Sheffield, 2005).
Academic staff are available to give clear guidance to students on limits of collaboration for group work.

ollusion occurs when two or more people work together to produce a piece of work, all or part of which is then submitted by each member of the group as their own individual effort (University of Sheffield, 2005). Examples would include where you “copy” material from another student on the course, or from an essay that has been submitted in a previous year, but pass it off as your own work. Collusion also includes where two or more students jointly write an assignment which is set as individual work, and hand in identical or very similar versions. On some courses, we require you to do “groupwork” and learn skills like delegation and co-operation. In these cases, final reports may include ideas developed jointly by the group members, but unless the group notifies us to the contrary, we assume all group members have contributed equally.
It is often useful to discuss how you tackle essays with other students. We hope that you will learn from each other as well as from the course tutors, and we encourage the healthy exchange of ideas and academic debate. However, when it comes to writing individual assignments, what you hand in must be “all your own work.” Again, if course tutors suspect collusion, they will compare scripts, and where copying becomes apparent, both students will be called in to account for the “similarities” between their essays.

Use your Student Handbook!

It contains:

  • Sections on referencing and citation

  • Guidance on how to lay out different sorts of references

  • Sections on plagiarism and collusion

If you do not understand something in the handbook about citation, referencing, plagiarism or collusion you must discuss it with one of the course tutors, before you submit any formal written work.

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