What is plagiarism?

The Real Academia de la Lengua (RAE) defines plagiarism as copying the work of others and passing this off as your own.

In an academic environment, plagiarism consists of using the words or ideas of other people as if they were your own. This is considered to be deceitful behaviour and constitutes an unacceptable practice which compromises academic honesty and integrity.

In all academic and scientific work it is essential that you reference the sources that you used to carry the work out, since in doing so you recognise the work and authorship of other people. Failing to acknowledge this, either accidentally or intentionally, equates to using the work of others in an undeserved way and is therefore considered to be plagiarism.

Remember that plagiarism is not limited to written works. It also applies to the copying of any other type of material. Whenever you use any information from other sources, whether this is text, images, graphics, videos or any information in any format (print, digital, internet etc.) you must state the original source and specify the author.

Why you shouldn’t plagiarize?

Because plagiarism is not ethical neither legal.

Plagiarism is not ethical because it involves taking advantage of another person’s work. It is not legal because it contravenes laws protecting intellectual property.

Remember that plagiarism is a crime that is punished under the Penal Code when it is committed for profit and/or harms others.

How can you avoid comitting plagiarism?

In order to avoid committing plagiarism, it is important to be extremely thorough when using outside sources. The best way of avoiding committing plagiarism is by citing and referencing the content that you use.

You can avoid committing plagiarism by placing all text from outside sources that you have used word-for-word within quotation marks and accompanying this quotation with a brief reference stating the author and the source from which the information was obtained.

Another form of avoiding plagiarism is by paraphrasing: using your own words to explain the ideas of another person. In order to paraphrase without plagiarising, you should write the information out in a different way than it appears in the original. Do not simply substitute key words for synonyms. When you paraphrase, it is not necessary to place the text between quotation marks, because you have altered the original, but you must still reference the author and source of the concept that you have paraphrased. Without doing this, you are committing plagiarism.

If you would like to use works by other authors, always do this within the framework of the law. Remember that the Intellectual Property Law allows you to:

  • Use materials found in the public domain if you reference the author and original source.
  • Use works that have been created under free licences, as long as you respect the conditions of that licence and reference the author of the source.
  • Include, in your own work, small extracts from outside works that have already been released without having to obtain permission from the author(s) or owner(s) of the rights, as long as you do this for the purposes of quotation or analysis, commentary or critical judgement, for academic or research purposes, and you reference the author and the source appropriately.

Antiplagirism tools

There are now automatic programmes which detect plagiarism. They work by analysing different information sources and can be used to locate documents used in cases of plagiarism. One of the most well-known tools is Turnitin.

Google and Google Scholar can be very useful in detecting plagiarism: you can look for phrases in quotation marks to see if they have been cut and pasted from another published work. Other commonly-used free tools such as The Plagiarism Checker enable you to search for chunks of text in Google.

Many universities also observe strict anti-plagiarism protocols which all university works must comply with.


If you require advice or assistance, please contact your library.