Plagiarism is when you copy someone else’s work or use their ideas in your coursework, thesis, report etc, and then do not acknowledge that you have done this.
If you plagiarise work, you are using another person’s work without acknowledgement. This is key to understanding what plagiarism is, and is key to appreciating the importance of academic integrity in the research process.
It is hugely important and necessary for you to read, consult, and discuss work that other researchers, scientists, engineers and practitioners have produced in your subject field. There is a vast and valuable collection of material available to you, and this is the result of time, money, personal effort, experimentation, and testing. Your lecturers, and their lecturers used this research as the basis for their studying, and for their own research, and without this collection of research, the subject knowledge you have access to would not exist.
Therefore, it is integral to the research process, and research communication, that this collection of work is acknowledged and recognised by all researchers in a particular subject field. Anyone who has produced a piece of work wants recognition for it, whether you are a 5 year old at primary school who has written their first sentence, or a world-class researcher who has designed a piece of energy-saving equipment. The concept of academic integrity is built upon the act of recognising the ideas and work that have already been produced, and subsequent work based on that existing collection.
You may not want a research career when you have completed your degree, but whilst you are studying at university, you are a member of the academic community. You have to adhere to the academic practices and ethics of that community, and being aware of the research process, and acknowledging its contribution to your own work is central to this.
‘Learning how to make proper and responsible use of other people’s work… is the heart of academic life.’
Pyper H. (2000) Avoiding plagiarism: advice for students. Leeds, School of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Leeds.