What is plagiarism?
Definitions, examples, exceptions, and a few pieces of good advice


Plagiarism is to use someone else’s work and pass if off as your own without a credit.

  • “To use” includes but is not limited to: quoting, paraphrasing, synthesizing, translating, discussing, and assessing.
  • “Work” covers all types of original contributions, including but not limited to: words, sound, images, vectors, models, and figures.
  • “Credit” involves a citation and a reference. The citation points to the bibliography and should should contain enough information for anybody to find it there. A reference points to the outside world, and if construed correctly, allows for unambiguous identification and retrieval of the source


Plagiarism can happen both by accident and by design.

Below you will find a few selected examples of plagiarism:

  • If you copy sentences, phrases or ideas from someone else’s work without accurately stating the source.
  • If you borrow distinctive or striking terminology from somebody else´s work and use it in your own assignment without crediting the original author.
  • If you borrow an assignment from a fellow student or buy an assignment from a paper mill and submit it as your own original work.
  • If you submit a previously assessed assignment, in full or in part, and submit it for a new exam without clearly flagging it. This is an example of self-plagiarism.

Why is it a problem?

  • Because an examiner is tasked with assessing what you, and not somebody else, have learned and are capable of.
  • Because in academia transparency is of the essence.
  • Because it is simple theft.

As a student in Danish higher education you subscribe to an academic tradition where it is expected that you work both independently and ethically correct. This implies, among other things, being loyal to the sources that you use and processing data independently. You are also expected to familiarize yourself with the rules.

This means that it is important that you provide sufficient documentation every time you use someone else’s words, thoughts, and ideas, as this allows for your readers to identify and seek out the sources to verify and explore further.

Ask your supervisor or your library if in doubt.

Avoid plagiarism

There are lots of things you can do to avoid plagiarism:

You will find a couple of tips below

  • If you quote somebody else, always remember to wrap the quote in quotation marks or use indentation, and leave a citation that includes page number.
  • If you use contents that originate with someone else, you need to reference the source. The reference needs to include enough information for your reader to be able to identify it unambiguously.
  • When writing up an assignement, you should always be very clear about which sections are the result of your own thoughts and ideas and which are derived from someone else. The way to do that is to leave a citation and a reference.
  • When reading, it is a good idea to make meticulous notes along the way. Pen down titles and page numbers when you come across important phrases. This will make it so much easier for you to reference sources correctly if you wish to use it in your assignment later. You may want to consider using a reference manage software to keep track for you.
  • You should always be loyal to your sources and use them accurately and fairly. This means representing the contents of the sources in a ways that do them justice. You should be careful not to distort the original meaning of the source and mindful about the context so as not to come into conflict with the authors´s original intentions.

Common knowledge

As a general rule, whenever you use somebody else´s works, you should always remember to leave a credit.

However, if you refer to what is essentially common knowledge, you do not necessarily have to do so.

Common knowledge is knowledge that it is reasonable to assume that members of a specific community, whether geographical, institutional or professional, share and hold for true and self-evident. If you are not sure if something constitute common knowledge or not, it is always better to leave a citation and a reference

  • In Denmark, for example, the fact that there are 179 members of parliament, or that Hans Christian Andersen is the author of a whole parade of much-loved fairytales can be considered common knowledge.
  • Common knowledge within an academic community could be the foundational ideas that underpin a subject area, ideas that are assumed to be known by all members of the community

In both of these cases, it would normally not be necessary to credit any specific source.

However, whether or not to reference very much depends on context and domain-specific conventions.

Ask your supervisor if in doubt.

And remember, one citation too many is better than one too few.


Plagiarism is considered a serious violation of sound academic practice.

That is why many educational institutions have invested in software that can help detect potential cases of plagiarism by screening all written assignments.

Software like this can assist examiners in identifying overlaps between a submitted assignment and millions of other documents. An overlap does not necessarily constitute plagiarism, however, as long as you signal through a citation and a reference that the portion of text flagged originates with someone else.

Potential consequences of plagiarism include:

  • A warning
  • Annulment
  • Temporary or permanent relegation
  • Revocation of an academic degree

Check out your university intranet, to find out what applies at your institution.