Kwanghui's Plagiarism FAQ

This FAQ is divided into three sections:


Q: Please summarize this FAQ
A: The main points are expressed by these three examples:
(a) If a student copied her entire assignment (or most of the key ideas/analysis) from elsewhere -> very serious offense. The student gets zero marks, receives a warning letter copied to the NUS Entrepreneurship Center and her Dean's Office, and may face additional penalties.
(b) If the student copied some paragraphs from elsewhere, but they are not the central argument in her paper -> moderately serious, some penalties imposed depending upon the circumstances.
(c) If the student forgot to cite a reference, but the paper contained mainly her own ideas/analysis -> minor offence; just a reminder sent to the student.

Q: What is Plagiarism?
A: It means copying someone else's work and submitting it as your own. This includes wholesale copying from websites, reports, books, assignments taken from other students including your seniors, etc. For further details read

Q: Why is it wrong?
A: Stealing is wrong. You are cheating your classmates who worked on their papers, you are cheating yourself of an education because you aren't putting in your own thoughts. You are wasting my time reading your paper, and making me do a lot more extra paperwork writing to your Dean and the Director of the Entrepreneurship Center.
Furthermore, you are infringing the copyright of the person you copied from; this exposes you to legal liabilities.

Q: Should i take a risk? maybe i won't get caught.
A: Don't do anything stupid. NUS subscribes to a truly excellent anti-plagiarism service ( In the past we have caught students for plagiarism and they have been punished severely.

Q: Oh. what are the punishments?
A: You automatically get a zero for the assignement. In addition, the Entrepreneurship Center and your Host Department will be informed and may choose to take discplinary action. Repeat offenders will be expelled from the university.

Q: Is that all?
A: No.... your classmates will dislike you. They too know how to use google.

Making References

Q: Does this mean i shouldn't put in anything at all from other sources?
A: It is perfectly fine to quote short portions from other sources in order to comment on or critique them. In such cases please include clear reference to these sources. However the key ideas and analysis presented in your paper must be your own. And most of the writing in it should also be your own, not cut-and-paste from somewhere else.

Q: I am unsure about when referencing is actually needed. With reference to my paper, I mentioned names such as IDEO. I had not referred to any article nor academic journal while writing my paper and had just drawn up analogies conveniently using the names of such organisations to better articulate my point. I am not sure if that constitutes an offense under plagiarism regulations.
A: It is fine to use company names in your papers without making references (citations) to them. In general, you need references only for original ideas and text taken from elsewhere. For example, here is a citation:

"You do not have to cite sources for facts that are not the result of unique individual research. Facts that are readily available from numerous sources and generally known to the public are considered "common knowledge," and are not protected by copyright laws."

I only took a short passage needed to support my point, and i put a reference next to it. The whole thing is in quotation marks. For further details, read and

Q: Can you give me some examples?
A: This is an excellent example by Lay Ngee. He uses numbers to indicate exactly where each reference points to, and lists them at the end of his article:

Even Thailand and Singapore are considered setting up their casino in their home land. As Shapiro & Varian commented that In today's high-tech world, the battle never really ends. So, take a deep breath and be ready to keep moving [1]. After the two years IGT™ victory, GSA released two groundbreaking protocol standards BOB (Best of Breed) and S2S (System to System) enabling machines and systems of different manufacturers to communicate correctly with each others in June this year [2]. etc.
[1] Shapiro, C. and H. Varian (1999). The Art of Standards Wars, California Management Review, Vol. 41(2), pp. 8-32.
[2] GSA Home Page,

Below is a good example from a paper by your classmate, Kok Seng. Note that the portion I have highlighted in red is taken from a news article with the reference included (it would have been better to include the date of that article). The rest of the paragraph develops upon and analyzes this statement, adding value beyond the initial article.

Water shortage and pollution are becoming serious issues in China, which present further business opportunities for Hyflux. Experts calculate that 700 million Chinese consume drinking water contaminated with levels of animal and human waste that do not meet minimum state drinking water standard. (Asia Times) With rapid industrialization, population growth and lack of potable water drove and China will continue to drive demand for water treatment. The development in China could translate into huge opportunities for Hyflux where it has completed projects for electronics, pharmaceutical companies. As the China continues to develop into global manufacturing powerhouse, the companies operating there will require water or recycling plants.

Here is another example. This student (Zhigang) begins his paper with a definition quoted from the USPTO. The rest of the paper uses this definition and analyzes how it fits with the idea of "dominant design", and then applies it to a case study.

"A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor ......What is granted is not the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell or import, but the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention."
- United States Patent and Trademark Office.

A patent is a powerful tool in protecting one's intellectual property. In high tech industries where a dominant design could mean billions in global market share, this is big business. In the current information age, R&D departments of most companies are well informed of competitor technologies within the industry. Whenever a new technology appears, it is never long before another company manages to reverse engineer it and manufacture an alternative version of it using their own technological base to go around the patent issues. <etc>

Responses to Actual Emails from Students

Q: (from a student who copied one-third of the assignment from elsewhere):
Sorry about this incident. I was very busy and didn't give much thought to this module and overlooked the due date.
The paper was done on the due date of submission. This is my first offence. I'm really regretful about this and will promise not to do it again for the next paper coming up.
A: If you were really pressed for time and had valid reasons, you could have just asked us for an extension of the deadline. That is much preferred than having you resort to crime. Both Sarah and I are reasonable people.

Q (from a student who copied almost all of the report from elsewhere):
I am really very sorry that the name of the source from where i took substantial part of my online paper wasn't mentioned, i thought i had already mentioned the name of the source at the end of the online paper but it seems i forgot to do that in a hurry to submit. I am aware of the plagiarism policy of NUS and promise you that whatever happened was unintentional. I have never been involved in such case before and personally feel strongly against it. I assure you that i'll never repeat it in future and request you to please give me a last chance and not take a diciplinary action.

A: No thanks for your apology. I actually feel worse after reading it. In your case, even if you put in the reference to that website at the end, you would still have scored zero. This is because the entire content of your paper is copied from elsewhere. So there is no way you can pretend your actions are unintentional. Submitting an assignment is NOT about copying the contents of a website or someone else's report, it is about offering your own ideas and analysis. You can make references to other sources and put into quotes, but to copy someone else's work wholesale is cheating. Even people who have never been to school (let alone a univeristy) understand this -- it is commonsense. As for disciplinary actions, that is out of my hands to decide. It is a university administration decision.

Q: Sir - I accept the decision and whatever outcome. Maybe, I just want you to know that I did not blindly just cut and paste. My final year project is on this topic. As such, I have read and understood and even beyond the information presented.
A: You may have understood more than this, but: (1) you did not demonstrate it here because the essay you submitted was in fact blind cut and paste, and (2) you violated copyright law.
For example, I know a lot about managing innovation (more than most people in the world) since i completed a Ph.D. in that field. However, if the New York Times asks me to write a simple news article for them and all I do is cut-and-paste from a few other newspaper reports, what does that say about me?

Q: After much online research, I found a reference that served as an extremely useful guide. Being overwhelmed from what I learnt from it and what I could apply, I must have unknowingly used too much of the reference, thus resulting in plagiarism. I believe the effect was more severe after I was told to summarize my essay from the original 1000+ words to the 500 word limit. This was because I must have ended up summarizing my own words instead of the concepts and their elaborations from the reference cited. I would like to apologise unreservedly for this oversight once again.
A: If you read some of the other online papers, you will find it is possible to pack in a lot of thoughtful ideas into a short essay. Perhaps i can propose a different approach. Instead of starting out with a long essay and chopping it down, begin with an outline in point form of your key ideas. Think through what your own value-added is. Then, expand it into a full essay, using material from elsewhere to support your points as needed.

Q (from a student whose paper consisted entirely of paragraphs cut-and-paste from a company's technical report):
Please believe me that I never had any intention to pose of the work of others as mine. My references for the papers indicated where I took my information. I think I still have not understood how to write a paper. To me, it was always to read up on a desired article and extract the main information from it. And, I never re-phrase it unless I can think of a more elegant phrase as replacement.
A: You need to reconsider how you write papers. There is no point just extracting information from other sources- you might as well just hand up the original; why waste time? Think about what you are adding. what ideas, concepts or analysis are you putting in? Read the papers by your classmates. Which ones do you find interesting? Are they the ones that express what the author really thinks and feels, or those that just repeat what you've already gone through in your readings? Instead of starting out with a cut-paste operation, you should begin with an outline in point form of your key ideas. Use it to figure out what your own value-added is. Then, expand it into a full essay, using material prudently from elsewhere to support your points as needed.

Q: (from a student who copied one short paragraph from an unreferenced source; the rest of the paper was original. This student was given a warning note but not penalized):
I am really sorry about copying a paragraph in my paper from elsewhere without including it in the reference, i know that is my fault and careless. I promise I will do a standard citation in the next online paper. There might have some students who forgot the references on their paper carelessly; please do not feel upset for the entrepreuneur to-be.
A: Thank you for your note. As i mentioned, in this case you did not commit plagiarism, you just forgot to put in a reference. The main thing is that the ideas and analysis in your essay were original. I am not at upset with you about this. The ones I am disappointed with are your clasmates who copied their ENTIRE assignment (or big chunks of it) from other sources, and did not introduce any of their own original analysis and ideas.

Q: Sir, I am surprise that some of my classmates are copying their assignments. Thanks for punishing them. To be honest sir, the thought of copying has crossed my mind because I am not a good student and afraid of doing badly. NUS students are under a lot of pressure you know.
A: You are welcome; I am just doing my job. Sorry to hear about the pressure. Please drop by to chat if you need to. Note that just because someone copies doesn't mean he/she will do well! A lot of the things you find online are unreliable and done by incompetent people who have never taken TR2202. In fact, a number of students who copied their assignments did poorly even before their plagiarism was detected (so what can I say?). And if caught, they get a zero score and face severe penalties. Compare this to students who submitted original assignments and may have scored anywhere from 5 to 10 marks. Any NUS professor will try hard not to fail students especially those that been putting in genuine effort.

Updated: 27 Dec 2005.