Defining Plagiarism

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
Six different examples of plagiarism. 404 Error: inaccurate citations or citations to non-existent sources; clone: submitting another's work; copy and paste: copies portions from other texts; mash-up: mixes copied material from multiple sources; recycle: borrows from your previous work; find and replace: changing key words or phrases only.

The plagiarism spectrum. There are many different ways to plagiarize. It is your responsibility to know what constitutes plagiarism so you can avoid it in your assignments.

Obvious Plagiarism Less Obvious Plagiarism
  • Turning in someone else’s paper as one’s own.
  • Turning in a paper that was bought from a service on the Internet.
  • Reusing a paper previously turned in for one class and then submitting the same paper or portions of it for subsequent classes without permission of the instructor (self-plagiarism).
  • Cutting and pasting entire sections from other authors’ works into one’s own paper.
  • Using another author’s exact words but not putting quotation marks around the quote and citing the work.
  • Failing to differentiate between common knowledge and something that needs to be cited.
  • Failing to include complete and correct citations.
  • Sticking too closely to another author’s words by only changing a few words around when paraphrasing.
  • Using another author’s exact words but not putting quotation marks around the quote even if one cites the work.
4 more plagiarism examples. Aggregator: includes proper citation to sources but almost no original work; retweet: proper citation, but relies too closely on the original wording; hybrid: combines perfectly cited sources and copied passages in the same paper; remix: paraphrases from multiple sources made to fit together.

More ways to plagiarize.

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.