A First Aid to
A Student's Guide to Philosophy Courses
By David Benatar
Please note: this material is copyrighted, but may be used for personal use without charge on condition that the author and source are acknowledged.
| How to Succeed in a Philosophy
Course | How to Write a Philosophy
Essay | Avoiding Plagiarism
| Philosophy Exam Tips |
This section contains extremely important
information. Students are advised to read it very carefully.
Many students practise plagiarism without realising that they
are doing so. Given the measures that are being taken to
inform students about what plagiarism is, claiming ignorance
about what constitutes plagiarism will not be deemed a
Plagiarism is a serious academic offence. Students caught
engaging in this practice will be reported to the relevant
university authorities. The university takes plagiarism very
seriously and students found guilty of it can expect to face
heavy penalties, up to and including either rustication or
expulsion from the university.
1. A general definition
To plagiarise is to use another person's work while presenting it as one's own.
2. Forms of plagiarism
Many students have this general understanding of what
plagiarism is, but do not realise the many forms it can take.
These include (but are not necessarily limited to) the
following overlapping practices:
Submitting as one's own, work which one has copied, whether in
whole or in part, from anybody else, and irrespective of
whether that copied work is published or unpublished, from the
web or from another student (past or present) or a family
Lifting another person's ideas or words without
acknowledgement, whether or not that person knows of or has
given permission to use the work without
Acknowledging a source but not indicating that one has quoted
verbatim (i.e. word for word).
Indicating, via quotation marks, that some words have been
taken directly from another author, but without acknowledging
the source by providing the necessary citation details.
Preserving the general structure of a sentence, paragraph or
other unit of work authored by somebody else, making minor
grammatical, structural or word changes. This constitutes
editing somebody else's work - often for the worse - not
writing one's own work.
Any student who is in doubt as to whether a practice
constitutes plagiarism is responsible for asking the relevant
lecturer or tutor.
3. Avoiding plagiarism
Never copy from another person.
Students are permitted to discuss class work and essay topics
with other people, but they are not permitted to copy their
Exercise caution in making preparatory notes from sources
Some students make the error, in preparing for their essays,
of making verbatim notes from a source and then including
these in the essays they subsequently write. To avoid this, it
is best not to copy verbatim but rather to make notes in one's
own words. Where words are copied verbatim in one's
preparatory notes, these should be included in quotation marks
to remind one that these words are directly quoted.
Always acknowledge the source of an idea that one borrows from
It is not necessary, however, to acknowledge generally
accepted facts and ideas. For instance, if one noted that
Immanuel Kant was the author of the Critique of Pure Reason it
would not be necessary to reference the secondary source in
which one read that. Similarly, if one wrote that ethical
egoism is the view that one ought to pursue one's own
interests, one would not need to acknowledge a book or article
where one learnt that.
Even a single sentence or phrase copied from another source
must be included in quotation marks and referenced
It is particularly easy for students to fall into the trap of
cutting and pasting from one or more web sources into their
essays. This is as unacceptable as copying from print sources.
All quotations must be clearly indicated as such by the use of
both quotation marks and citation of the source. Remember, however, that one should keep quotations to a
minimum. They should be used only when necessary. A string of
quotations, even if clearly marked as such and duly
referenced, is not an acceptable essay. It is not possible to
assess a student's understanding of the issues if large parts
of the student's essay consist of quoting the words of
others. A rule of thumb is to quote only when some important purpose
is served by doing so. For example, when an author's wording
is ambiguous, it may be important to quote the exact words as
a prelude to explaining the different interpretations of them.
Do not follow the structure of other people's work too
In writing one's essay, one should not simply reproduce the
(general or detailed) structure of other people's work. It is
not acceptable to merely reword or edit other people's writing
and present it as one's own.
4. Plagiarism declaration
A signed declaration, indicating that one has not plagiarised,
must be included on the front cover of each essay submitted.
It should take the following form:
1. I know that plagiarism is a serious form of academic dishonesty.
2. I have read the document about avoiding plagiarism, am familiar with its contents and have avoided all forms of plagiarism mentioned there.
3. Where I have used the words of others, I have indicated this by the use of quotation marks.
4. I have referenced all quotations and other ideas borrowed from others.
5. I have not and shall not allow others to plagiarise my work.
5. Some examples
Some real examples of plagiarism are reproduced on the following pages. The similarities of the source and plagiarised versions are underlined. Occasional rephrasing in the plagiarised version is indicated by grey script. Each example is followed by an explanation of why it is an instance of plagiarism.
One student copying from another
Student A's First Paragraph
Student B's First Paragraph
means that power lies with the people, which simply
imply rule by the people.
in the past was considered to be a bad word as
everybody believed that although society would be
governed in the interest of the majority, it would
restrict individuals freedom and all the goods of
more recently there is a near-universal agreement that
democracy epitomizes the best form of government and
thus in most societies has become highly desirable.
however takes on two forms, that of a representative
democracy and a participatory democracy.
democracy occurs when citizens elect representatives
who then engage in governing and a participatory
democracy occur when all people are directly involved
in political decision making.
considering if state power should rest with ‘the
people’ one should take into account the
characteristics of the various forms of a democracy
coupled with its problems and appeals.
are many different ideas and definitions which come to
mind when mentioning democracy, all of which are
somehow related. To put it simply, democracy is
when the people rule.
the past it was considered to be a bad thing as
individual freedom might be restricted in favour of
have certainly changed and democracy has become by far
the favourite amongst the various nations. By the
middle of the 20th century,
every independent country in the world, with a few
exeptions, had a government that, in structure,
embodied some of the principles of democracy.
its ideals have been widely professed, the practice of
democracy has been different in many countries.
takes two basic forms, namely participatory and
the first case, people of the land play an active role
in governing, while elected representatives are placed
in the decision-making position.
countries prefer either of the two types of
democracies, but as we shall see, both have their
downfalls. Democracy has many pros and cons and we
must weight it up in order to determine if state power
should in fact rest with the “the people”.
The structure of student B’s paragraph is modelled very
closely on Student A’s. Student B has not used student A’s
exact words, but has plagiarised in rewording each copied
component of student A’s paragraph.
Copying from a web source - with acknowledgement
but without quotation marks
Internet source - sample paragraph
Student C - corresponding
these questions is the paradox of every government.
Man in a state of nature has maximum freedom
limited only by his strength and ability to survive.
For protection he establishes a government which, to
endure, must limit his freedom. One against the other,
liberty and security are in constant conflict.
The dilemma becomes acute whenever the forces of
safety and order outweigh those of freedom, when even
the most trifling human activity is regulated by the
State, or conversely, whenever the abuses of liberty
bid fair to destroy society, when civil war – in
Hobbes’ phrase of “every man against every man”
– or anarchy threatens. How to steer between the
two extremes, tyranny and anarchy, how to conserve the
State for its essential functions and an ultimate of
liberty, this is at the bottom of the controversy
between the individual and majority rule.
the Liberal Democracy (the general ideology of
democratic states of today) there is the underlying
paradox of every government. Man in a state of nature
has maximum freedom limited only by his strength and
ability to survive. For protection he establishes
government which, to endure, must limit his freedom.
One against the other, liberty and security are in
constant conflict (www.libertyhaven.com/
26/09/2000). With this, how to steer between the
two extremes, tyranny and anarchy, how to conserve the
state for its essential functions and an ultimate of
liberty, this is at the bottom of the controversy
between the individual and majority rule
Whole sentences and phrases have been lifted
from the source without indicating that words have been quoted
verbatim. That student C has faithfully acknowledged the
source of each copied sentence does not mean that plagiarism
has been avoided. Had student C used quotation marks,
plagiarism would have been avoided. However, it would not have
made for a good essay, especially since most of the rest of
the essay consists of “cutting and pasting” from this and
Copying from a published source without
Source - two paragraphs
Student D - corresponding
that someone is fleeing from
a murderer and tells you he is going home to hide.
Then the murderer comes along and asks where the first
man went. You believe that if you
tell the truth, the murderer will find his victim
and kill him. Furthermore, suppose the murderer is
already headed in the right direction, and you believe
that if you simply remain silent, he will find his
victim and kill him. What should you do?
might call this the Case of the Inquiring Murderer. In
this case, most of us would think it is obvious
that we should lie. Of course, we don’t think
we should go about lying as a general rule, but in
these specific circumstances it seems the right thing
After all, we might say, which is more important,
telling the truth or saving someone’s life?
Surely in a case such as this lying is justified.
is a major problem with this kind of argument. For
example, imagine that someone is running away from a
murderer and tells you he is going home to hide. The
murderer then comes along and asks you where the man
went. You are sure that if you tell the truth the
murderer will find the man and kill him. What would
you do? Most of us would think that in this case it is
obvious that we should lie, since it seems like the
right thing to do. After all, saving someone’s life
is far more important than telling the truth.
Student D has quoted verbatim (with the
occasional rephrasing) from the source, but has not
acknowledged that source. Changing the occasional word and
slightly rephrasing the source, as student D has done, does
not avoid plagiarism.
Page last updated:
2009/10/02 11:59:43 AM