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What authorship is

In order to fully understand plagiarism, it is important to first understand the concept of 'authorship'.

Authorship refers to the production and ownership of ideas and intellectual material, such as books, articles, images, etc.

The higher education system in the UK places great importance on recognising the producer and owner of material. Whereas in some cultures knowledge is thought of as communal property, in the United Kingdom it is considered to be individual property. Therefore, improper or incomplete acknowledgement of a source of information is treated as 'intellectual theft'. The proper name for this is 'plagiarism'.

The issue of ownership is complicated by the fact that some knowledge is said to be 'common knowledge'. Do not be alarmed by this: 'common knowledge' is dealt with later in these pages, in the section called 'what needs referencing', which will help you to identify what needs to be referenced from what does not.

The concept of authorship affects all of your academic work, not just the way you are expected to apply referencing conventions. At University, you will be encouraged to develop your own ideas and construct your own knowledge, using established knowledge as a foundation. You will also be encouraged to 'find your voice', which means developing your own unique academic writing style - your 'authorial voice'. Understanding the concept of authorship is therefore not only important for avoiding plagiarism.