What Counts as Plagiarism?
Plagiarism can be intentional or unintentional. It often occurs because the process of citation can be confusing, technology makes copy + paste so easy, and knowing exactly what to cite is not always easy! You can avoid unintentional plagiarism by learning how to cite material and keeping track of sources in your notes. Give yourself plenty of time to process sources so you don’t plagiarize by mistake. Here are some examples of plagiarism:
- Submitting a paper written by someone else.
- Using words and phrases from the source text and patching them together in new sentences.
- Failing to acknowledge the sources of words or information.
- Not providing quotation marks around a direct quotation. This leads to the false assumption that the words are your own.
- Borrowing the idea or opinion of someone else without giving the person credit
- Restating or paraphrasing a passage without citing the original author
- Borrowing facts or statistics that are not common knowledge without proper acknowledgement
Less Obvious Plagiarism
Why Should You Care?
Being honest and maintaining integrity in your academic work is a sign of character and professionalism. In addition to maximizing your own learning and taking ownership of your academic success, not plagiarizing is important because
- Your professors assign research projects to help you learn. You cheat yourself when you substitute someone else’s work for your own.
- You don’t like it when someone else takes credit for your ideas, so don’t do it to someone else.
- Plagiarizing comes with consequences. Depending on the offense and the institution, you may be asked to rewrite plagiarized work, receive a failing grade on the assignment, fail the entire course, or be suspended from the university.
- Professors use search engines, databases, and specialized software to check suspicious work, so you will eventually get caught.
Is it Plagiarism?
1. Last semester you wrote an essay on Emily Dickinson for Professor Belin’s “American Literature 101” course. This semester you are taking a course called “Interrogating Gender in American Culture,” and Professor Arecco has assigned a paper topic that references Dickinson’s life and work. It would be very easy for you to re-tool whole sections of your first essay to satisfy the requirements of the second. It is acceptable practice to re-submit this paper – without checking with either professor — because you are writing a paper for a different professor and a different course.
- This is plagiarism
- This is not plagiarism
2. Plagiarism is not limited to taking something from a book; it also includes stealing ideas from a movie, a professor’s lecture, or from an interview on a radio news program.
- True, this is plagiarism
- False, this is not plagiarism
3. You have cut and pasted a lot of information from articles you found on web sites and databases into a Word file on your computer. While writing your essay, you find yourself patching together pieces from different sources, and you have occasionally lost track of which ideas were your own and which were from various articles and websites. You consider going back to the original sources but the prospect is daunting. In any case, you figure that if your professor queries your sources, you can say that you didn’t intentionally plagiarize, and this will result in a lesser punishment.
In fact, it would be a good idea to create a number of folders: one for your paper; another for sources, with individual files for each and every source; and another folder for the notes you take from each source. Maintain all the information for the bibliography as you go – it’ll save time and effort later. When taking notes, identify your source. Put quotation marks around direct quotes and double check to make sure you’ve duplicated every punctuation mark. Avoid using the author’s language when paraphrasing or summarizing information – unless, of course, you quote verbatim from the original. Here’s a tip for keeping your ideas separate from those in your sources; you can either identify each idea as your own, that is, cite yourself, or put your ideas in a different font, case, or color on the screen. Another good idea is to print out your sources whenever possible, even when you have a file-version on your computer. Working from the paper sources will allow you to check quotations for accuracy.
4. Your professor has recommended a particular text as a secondary source for an assigned essay on Kant’s ideas about war and peace. You find a quotation that seems to speak directly to Kant’s idea of perpetual peace and you plug it in your essay, but it doesn’t quite relate to what goes before and you don’t know how to discuss it. You realize that you don’t really understand what the quotation means, or how you might discuss it within the larger context of your essay. You think of approaching your professor to ask for help, but decide that she will think less of you for not grasping the import of this text. Instead you find a website that discusses this very idea, and you summarize its explanation in your paper without citing it. Is this plagiarism?
5. I have found something posted on the Internet that I am going to include in a paper that I am writing. It is covered by a “Creative Commons” copyright. Since it is, can I consider it “common knowledge” and not cite it in my paper or included it in my references?
6. You are writing a biology report and you have included information that you read in your biology textbook. You aren’t sure if this information can be considered common knowledge, or whether you need to cite it. You
- Decide not cite the information. Information in the textbook is common knowledge for the biology class.
- Determine to cite your text book in the instances where you quoted from it directly; otherwise the summarized ideas in this text are considered common knowledge.
- Cite all the information you’ve gleaned from the textbook, whether quoted verbatim or summarized.
7. Is this use of information from a website plagiarism?
- Yes, it is plagiarism. The writer of the paper just rearranged some of the words from the website and does not acknowledge the source.
- No, it is not plagiarism. The paragraph written in the research paper is different than the website so the author didn’t need to cite the original.
8. Is this plagiarism?
- Yes, it is plagiarism. The student did not use quotation marks.
- No, it is not plagiarism. The student gave credit to the source in the text of the paper and in the list of references