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3.2 Intended and Unintended Plagiarism

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3.2 What is the difference between intended and unintended plagiarism?

Consider this situation:

You have just completed your composition for your Music assessment. It's been a lot of work and you're very pleased with it. You have composed a number of songs and the tunes are very catchy. However, when your teacher hears one of them for the first time she remarks that it is an exact copy of a folk song recorded during the 1970s. You don't remember hearing this song and are shocked to discover that your parents have a copy of the album at home. It may have been years since anyone played it at your house.

Students can plagiarise unintentionally. This can happen when they are unaware of what plagiarism is or don't know or understand that they are plagiarising. These students may have:

  • misunderstood about plagiarism
  • failed to include reference details when making notes
  • left out the reference in their assignment by mistake
  • incorrectly referenced the material
  • really believed that the work produced was original.

Intended or deliberate plagiarism means that a student has decided to cheat. Such a student might have chosen to:

  • quote, paraphrase or summarise words or ideas or copy tables, graphs etc, while also choosing not to provide a reference to show where the original ideas, words or data came from
  • copy or use another student's work, and submit it as their own work
  • submit an assignment which has been written for them by someone else
  • submit an assignment which has been downloaded from the internet.

Note: if your assignment is taken, with or without your knowledge, and used by another student, both of you may be accused of plagiarism.

Consider these situations

Are the following cases examples of intended or unintended plagiarism?

A student downloads an assessment task from a website. The essay question is exactly what he has been asked. So, because of shortage of time, he uses it.


A boy completes his research assignment ready to submit. One of his parents makes changes to the work without the student's knowledge. The student prints the amended version and hands it in as his own work.


Students pay tutors to do assignments and hand them in as their own work.


A student allows her sister, a theatre director, to help her prepare a monologue for performance in HSC Drama. She allows her sister to make all the decisions for the performance including character interpretation, use of the stage space and costumes and props. She does not acknowledge any assistance in her logbook and when her teacher remarks on her rapid improvement in the quality of her performance in rehearsals at school, she fails to mention the help she had from her sister.


A younger sister uses an older sister's assignment by copying and pasting and changing the font, and calls it her own.


You have been working on your paintings for your Visual Arts Body of Work. You have used a number of motifs from an Aboriginal artist's work which you saw on a trip to the Northern Territory but have done so unconsciously. It doesn't occur to you that you should record the source in your journal.



What next

Work through each step in the module:

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