Skip to main content

Law - LLM in International Law: Plagiarism and Copyright

Research assistance and useful library resources for LLM in International Law Students compiled by the Faculty of Law librarians

Plagiarism definition


Cartoon used under Creative Commons from

Question from a student?

What is plagiarism, and why do universities take it so seriously? If the information that I want is readily available in books and the internet, why can’t I just use it as it is in my assignments?

Answer: Put simply, plagiarism amounts to theft: theft of what is referred to as ‘intellectual property’. The information in books, the internet, and various other sources, does not belong to you; it belongs to the writers who created it.
  • You are allowed to use it in essays and other assignments, but you have to acknowledge the fact that it does not belong to you by using your own words and then referencing your sources carefully whenever you use such information.
  • You may also use the information as it is but whenever you do this, you must always place the information in quotation marks and then, once again, cite the source. However, you must quote sparingly so that you do not end up with an essay or assignment which looks like a patchwork quilt! It is easy to avoid plagiarism once you learn how.


Many people think of plagiarism as copying another's work, or borrowing someone else's original ideas. But terms like "copying" and "borrowing" can disguise the seriousness of the offense:

According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, to "plagiarize" means:

  • "to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own
  • to use (another's production) without crediting the source
  • to commit literary theft
  • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source."

In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else's work and lying about it afterward.

To avoid Plagiarism you need to learn how to acknowledge the resources (books , articles, etc) in your research project/asssignment.

Why do people plagiarise ?

People plagiarize as a result of the following:

  • Not knowing any better
  • Pressure/competition
  • Lack of confidence
  • Work perceived as too difficult
  • Lack of consequences
  • Lack of interest or laziness
  • Arrogance

 Why is plagiarism unethical?

  • Plagiarism is unethical because it is intellectual theft
  • It is in conflict with the UJ Values of trust and academic integrity
  • It shows disrespect for the rights of the original author
  • It tarnishes the reputation of the university and diminishes the value of your qualifications
  • It casts suspicion on the honest work of students

 How to recognize plagiarism?

How to avoid Plagiarism

To Avoid Plagiarism:

  • Never Copy Directly
  • Never Print Directly
  • Never Copy From Other Students

 To Quote a Source:

  • Always Use “Quotation Marks”
  • Always Give Credit to the Source (Citing & Referencing)

To Paraphrase:

  • Always Use Your Own Words
  • Give Credit to the Source

 To Use Common Knowledge:

  • Always Use Facts Known by Many People
  • No Citations Needed

Copyright @ UJ

User Manual

This document has been designed by the copyright office to guide students and staff of the University of Johannesburg

More LibGuides on Plagiarism