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The word on plagiarism

The IFS explores plagiarism, particularly in the context of the advanced financial advice component of the ifs diploma for financial advisers which involves producing an article of about 4,000 words with a bibliography

Plagiarism is the unauthorised use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author, or “the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.” (

The Joint Council for Qualifications, which represents the seven biggest providers of qualifications in the UK, defines plagiarism as “Unacknowledged copying from published sources (including the Internet) or incomplete referencing.” (JCQ, 2008, p.28)

Although not all instances of plagiarism are illegal, it is morally dishonest and can lead to charges of fraud and copyright infringement.

The difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement

Plagiarism is either copying something word for word or paraphrasing from another source (changing a few words but retaining the basic idea and structure of the original work) without citation, that is, without acknowledging the original piece of work and the author. If you quote from another author and provide an appropriate citation, then you are not a plagiarist.

Copyright infringement is the illegal act of copying some else’s “intellectual property” something which may have an economic value. For copyright infringement to have taken place, first, it has to be established that the new text is a copy of the original and then it has to be determined if the copying is “substantial”. Whether the “copier” has acknowledged the author is irrelevant.

Academic writing

Many higher qualifications, such as the Level 4 ifs diploma for financial advisers, require students to write a dissertation or coursework assignment, which is essentially a large body of writing on a specific topic. The student is expected to carry out extensive research to augment their existing knowledge and gain a wider understanding of the given topic in general, or from a particular viewpoint, or in the context of a particular client’s circumstances or for a specific target audience.

In financial services, although much of the material that has to be learned is factual (the technical specification of hundreds of different products is no small amount of knowledge to carry around in one’s head), a substantial part is open to discussion and debate. For a given set of client circumstances, for example, there will be certain products and solutions that are wholly inappropriate for one reason or another but, aside from those, there is no definite or specific recommendation that could be said to be the “correct” one.

The suitability, or not, of a certain product/term/premium/option for a particular client is, to a certain degree, a matter of opinion. It all hinges on whether it can be justified. Similarly, how one person may describe or explain a specific type of investment or product (either for the purposes of an examination, or for a client) may be totally different from the way another might do so.

A good piece of academic writing requires research reading and appreciating different points of view, perspectives, ideas, descriptions, explanations, angles, arguments for and against, benefits and drawbacks, etc. And whether or not the student decides to weave into their assignment exact quotes from their research sources, it is likely (and expected) that their thoughts and ideas will be influenced by the material they read.

The more research carried out, the more views and opinions are taken on board the skill is for the student to formulate their own conclusions and to write the piece in their own words. The purpose of a bibliography is to acknowledge the sources that influenced their thinking, thereby contributing towards the content of their final submission.

ifs advanced financial advice coursework assignment

The main task (part A) of the ifs advanced financial advice coursework assignment is to produce a piece of writing of no more than 4,000 words on a particular area of financial planning such as long-term care, collective investments, socially responsible investment practices, estate planning, retirement options, state benefits, etc. It may take the form of a client letter or an article for a newsletter or industry journal or a training handout for inclusion in a training manual and students are given four months to complete their assignment.

Part B is to compile a full bibliography to support the research carried out for Part A and to “present it in line with scholarly convention”. It is acknowledged that many students may not have undertaken a written assignment for many years if at all and will have little or no experience of how to correctly reference their sources or what “scholarly convention” means. For this reason, the ifs produces a referencing guide which includes its statement on plagiarism and some examples of how to reference correctly. This, together with an interactive tutorial and coursework exemplars, aims to give students a fair idea of what is expected of them in respect of part B.

However, it has to be remembered that DipFA is a Level 4 qualification and, as such, there must be a degree of initiative and self-direction, both in respect of the task itself and the compilation of the accompanying bibliography. So, for those who might be a little anxious about this part of the assignment, here are some extra tips and examples of how to reference your sources properly.

Website sources

Whether quoting directly, paraphrasing or simply lifting information from a website, it is sufficient to just put the name of the main site at the end of the paragraph in question, and to supply the full URL for the exact webpage concerned in the bibliography, together with the date the webpage was last visited.

Example of a direct quote from a website

There are procedures in place for retired people to claim overpaid National Insurance. “If you have overpaid or wrongly paid for any other reason, there is normally a six-year time limit for claiming a refund. So, for example, a claim for the tax year 2005-06 must be made by 5 April 2012.” (

Example of paraphrasing from a website

If a person has overpaid or wrongly paid NI, they can claim a refund. The time limit for making such a claim is six years from the end of the tax year concerned. So, for an overpayment in the tax year 2005-06, a claim must be made before April 5, 2012. (

Presentation of a website source in the bibliography refundscomplaints/claimback.htm 27th April 2011

Book sources

Whether quoting directly or paraphrasing from a book, the source appears in brackets at the end of the paragraph in which the quote or information is included, and a fuller reference is in the bibliography.

Example of a direct quote from a book

“The Alternative Investment Market is a market for smaller and growing companies with less onerous access requirements and lower costs than a full listing.” There are no rules concerning how long the companies have been trading or the availability of shares. (Life Assurance and Pensions Handbook 2009/10)

Example of paraphrasing from a book

For smaller and growing companies, there is Aim, for which there are less stringent access requirements. It is easier and less costly to obtain a listing on this market than the main Stock Exchange. (Life Assurance and Pensions Handbook 2009/10)

Presentation of a book source in the bibliography

Murphy, B., (2009) Life Assurance and Pensions Handbook 2009/10, 25th Edition. London: Taxbriefs Financial Publishing. p 405

Journal/trade publication sources

“The announcement by the Bank of England on quantitative easing (QE) in late February and early March was followed by a sharp recovery in the UK’s asset markets…” (Financial World, September 2009)

And in the bibliography

Congton. T., (September 2009), “QE Made in Britain”, Financial World. pp. 30-31

Newspaper sources

Again, the source should be in brackets at the end of the paragraph concerned, like this: (Daily Telegraph, 27th April 2011) and then in the bibliography as follows:
Daily Telegraph, Money Section, (27th April 2011), title of article, pp13-14

If a student does not quote or reference correctly, the anti-plagiarism software used by the ifs (Turnitin) may pick up the quote or paraphrased material, and their work may be rejected. Students are not given the opportunity to make corrections.

Referencing dos and don’ts

  • Do use double quotation marks when “quoting”
  • Do keep a note of the exact source (URL, book and journal page numbers, etc) while researching it will save time trying to find it later when compiling the bibliography
  • Don’t try to change a quote or phrase by adding or deleting a few words and passing it off as your own, it will be picked up by Turnitin
  • Don’t work too closely with other students when writing your assignment as this may result in two very similar pieces of work, which may also be picked up by Turnitin

Above all, it is important not to get too distracted by referencing; if you are confident that the piece of work you are submitting is your own work and, where you have quoted from or referred to the ideas of others, you have referenced appropriately, you should have nothing to worry about.



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There is one comment at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Plagiarism in any document is unethical. So to check this unethical issue you can use plagiarism checker. This tool is easily available on the Internet and is very easy to use. Plagiarism checker helps to avoid duplicity in a document. With one click one can easily detect plagiarism.

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