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Reviewing the Literature Room

Reviewing the literature is a major part of any research process. It is important for many reasons, including finding the basis for your research, checking the current knowledge and thinking in your subject area and demonstrating that you can find, read and synthesise a range of literature in your subject domain. As you create your literature review, you will also be building your skills in literature sourcing, retrieval and management. These include effective reading, synthesis, rationale-building, organisation and writing. As you study the constellations in this room, keep referring to the think map on the left. This will help you to see the relevance of a particular constellation to the overall picture.

Reviewing the literature > Plagiarism and IPR
Hubble Space telescope through the Shuttle window - example of a copyright-free image from NASA

Reviewing the literature

Plagiarism and IPR

Plagiarism is defined as

'The action or practice of taking someone else's work, idea, etc., and passing it off as one's own' (Oxford English Dictionary 2007).

Plagiarism has increasingly been in the news recently, as a result of the easy access to large quantities of information on the internet. There is significant concern that rates of plagiarism in academic work are rising. But, it is important to remember that, if sources are easy for students to find on the internet, they are equally easy for tutors to find, particularly with the latest electronic plagiarism detection software used in most universities. Of course, plagiarism is not limited to written work and also includes copying such things as images, paintings, musical compositions and ideas.

In the course of your research, you will obviously wish to refer to the work of others, whatever its format, perhaps in a report, dissertation, thesis or presentation. Whilst citing other works is to be encouraged, it is imperative in all cases to correctly acknowledge the appropriate author, composer or designer etc, to avoid plagiarising their work. If the author is unknown then appropriate acknowledgement must still be made. Plagiarism is a serious breach of university conduct rules and is also an assessment offence.

Plagiarism is a form of cheating. But, it is surprisingly easy to plagiarise unintentionally. For example, forgetting to cite the reference of some paraphrased text is plagiarism, even if it were accidental. Plagiarism is completely unacceptable whatever the reason for its occurrence. In addition to guarding against plagiarising someone else's work, research students may also be required to teach undergraduate workshops or mark assessments etc. In these circumstances, there is a need to be able to spot possible cases of plagiarism and to draw these to the attention of your supervisor or the module/programme leader. The learning materials here are intended only to introduce the concept of plagiarism and what can constitute it; they are by no means exhaustive. More detailed guidance on plagiarism can be found on the UWE library information skills website and we would encourage you to consult these pages.

The learning materials here also introduce ways in which information may be protected, such as intellectual property rights (IPR) and data protection. These learning materials are not intended to be a legal guide, but are only intended to introduce issues that may affect you as a researcher as a "heads up", and give links to sources of guidance if you need to undertake further investigation on plagiarism or IPR. Please note that these materials do not in any way reflect or purport to imply UWE official policy on plagiarism or IPR. They are for general information only. You should check with your faculty administration or course tutors for specific guidance on plagiarism and IPR at UWE.




1. What constitutes plagiarism?2. The scope of plagiarism
3. How not to plagiarise
4. Freedom of information and data protection5. Intellectual property rights
6. Copyright
7. Moral rights
8. Designs, patents and trademarks9. Summary of plagiarism and IPR

Authors: Dr Olivia Billingham and Dr Liz Falconer, University of the West of England, Bristol.


Further reading