Plagiarism & Patch writing — No Thank you!

We do not we do not accept plagiarism on the, neither do we tolerate it’s sneakier sibling, patch-writing. Plagiarism or patchwriting in either you theory module papers or your journalism articles means you will fail the module and need to resubmit, (with penalties). Note: We do use plagiarism/patch writing checkers.

From Poynter’s Is it Plagiarism

Using other peoples / organizations, information, writing, and ideas is perfectly OK — but you need to clearly attribute them and not pass them off as your own original work.

It’s sometimes hard to know what exactly constitutes plagiarism and where the line is and so we’ve compiled some simple guidelines here. I’m also including links for some reading of your own.

Before we go any further, I want to start by saying the best way to avoid plagiarism is to start with a clear focused idea of what your story is. If you know what YOU want to say, what YOUR story is about — you will naturally keep your work original and not need to rely on other people’s work as a crutch, but instead use it to support your own original reporting.

For both your articles and your papers, do your own research and reporting and write your own synthesis of that research and reporting in your own words. To do this you need to be familiar with the subject of your article or paper — if you don’t really understand the subject you won’t be able to write about it in your own words. Make sure you are reading different sources of information on any given subject if you simply rely on one source you are less likely to think critically about the subject and more likely to inadvertently plagiarize. Compare and evaluate the information from different sources — You’ll need to draw your own conclusions based on the facts and opinions that you have. Don’t worry about beautiful writing, in the beginning, just get your points down in simple language. You can tidy the language up later.

My final tip is to be well organized with your research so that attribution is easy. See Collecting & Collating Digital Research Online for tips.

Note you can see the University of Bolton’s guidelines on referencing and Plagiarism here: Students found guilty of plagiarism will be subject to University disciplinary procedures. Penalties for plagiarism include having to repeat assessments or even being suspended from their course in serious cases.

Start by watching the video here for a quick overview:

So What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is pretending someone else’s work or ideas are your own by copying elements in your paper or article without clearly attributing or referencing.

The practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.

— English Oxford Dictionaries

There are different types of plagiarism in academia and journalism — this article will largely focus on plagiarism within journalism, however, it’s important that you don’t plagiarize in your theory module papers. While the principals are the same, we will link to specific articles for academic papers so you are aware of and can avoid both. Beware of copying information, writing, and ideas:

  • Information: Do not use information from another journalist without crediting that information to the reporter and publication. For example, see the excerpt below from a Market Watch story about the death of an American football player:

The New York Times reported that Stabler, who died in July, had high Stage 3 (on a scale of 1 to 4) chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, according to researchers at Boston University.

See how the NYT is both attributed and the specific information is hyperlinked.

Can you spot another properly attributed source of information in the article below?

  • Writing: Do not copy or rewrite chunks of text from other writers and pass it off as your own for example see the case below from Retraction Watch:

(Nic) Cavell appears to have lifted some material from this story on genetically modified crops in China from Christina Larson’s New Yorker story on a similar topic. Here is the beginning of the WIRED piece, dated February 18th, 2016:

China has a fifth of the world’s people, but only about 7 percent of its arable land. Food security is a national obsession…

And the New Yorker article, dated August 31st 2015:

In China, which has one-fifth of the world’s population but just seven per cent of the world’s arable land, food security is a national obsession.

Take note, Cavell was immediately fired from his job, and can’t see any evidence of his writing since. Be warned your reputation is hard to build and easy to ruin.

  • Ideas: This is when a journalist adopts someone elses original idea or theory about an issue in the news, and pretends it’s his or her own. Beware of this and really there is no need! You are a reporter and if you find a great analyses of a news event — you’ve already done a valuable job — show us that idea, present it to us and put it into context.

Cases of Plagiarism

Take a look at these cases if you need more information.

Well here is a recap of my top tips given in the introduction:

  • Start from the very beginning with your own original focus to explore for your story or paper, that way you’ll naturally formulate your own conclusions. (it’s fine to work on a subject someone else has done before or to explore an angle another author has touched upon, just be honest about what is and isn’t your own original work).
  • Do your own reporting, once you know what your story is, find the best primary and secondary sources and go gather information. Go interview people, read research reports and get on your feet and make observations — that way you won’t need to steal stuff. (p.s. I borrowed this advice from the following article in the further reading section 😉
  • Know your subject If you don’t really understand your subject, topic or story you won’t be able to interpret information and communicate it to your audience. You’ll likley end up plagiarising.
  • Gather and compare information from different sources. Contrasting different sources will lead to the critical thinking and evaluation neccesary for original conclusions.


I class patchwriting in the same unacceptable ethical category as plagerism, and it results in a fail of the module. Patchwriting generally stems from lazyness. It demonstates a lack of research and or reporting and the required critical thinking about the information gathered. Essentially patchwriting shows you haven’t spent enough time formulating an original focused idea for your story or paper focus from the beggining or you haven’t spent enough time gaining information from diverse stories and then really thinking about that information.

Rebecca Moore Howard, has researched patchwriting. A Poynter article looking at her work says:

Howard speculates that most of the time, writers employ patchwriting because they don’t have enough time to craft original thoughts, or they don’t have enough time to understand their source material beyond the surface conclusions.

You don’t need to have a complelty original story — journalism tends to be an itterative process. However you will need some original reporting or anylises, you can’t simply build a report by piecing togther other peoples work. Here is another excerpt from the Poynter article which I reccomend reading in full — it’s below.

Perhaps the best way to do this — and to avoid patchwriting — is to approach each assignment with a clear idea of the new value it should bring to the audience. If editors and writers did this, I suspect a lot of the repetitive dishonest writing would fall away.

Be sure to read:

Worried you might be plagerising or patchwriting — check out this flowchart!


Is it original? An editor’s guide to identifying plagiarism from Poynter

Be sure to read Is it original? An editor’s guide to identifying plagiarism

Plagiarism in your Theory Papers

Some specific reading for you AdRes modules:

Check out Harvard’s guide for academic writing: Harvard Guide to Using Sources

It is considered plagiarism to draw any idea or any language from someone else without adequately crediting that source in your paper. It doesn’t matter whether the source is a published author, another student, a Web site without clear authorship, a Web site that sells academic papers, or any other person: Taking credit for anyone else’s work is stealing, and it is unacceptable in all academic situations, whether you do it intentionally or by accident.

The materials in this PDF: Acknowledging Sources PDF will help you avoid plagiarism by teaching you how to properly integrate information from published sources into your own writing.

If you are unsure about any of this information. Please contact your tutor.