Skip to Main Content Library Homepage College Homepage
Research Guides

Academic Integrity & Plagiarism Tutorial: Plagiarism

Previous: Defining TermsNext: Avoiding Plagiarism

What is Plagiarism

Simply put, plagiarism is taking another person's work or idea and presenting it as your own. All researchers make use of the work of other scholars, whether quoting their words directly or paraphrasing their ideas. But in doing so, they must always explicitly give credit to the sources of these words and ideas. Otherwise, it will appear that they came up with these words and ideas themselves, which is not only dishonest but a serious violation of the principles of academic integrity.

Everyone knows that copying entire sentences or paragraphs from other sources without proper attribution is plagiarism. But students may also commit plagiarism without even realizing it. For example, if you paraphrase someone else's words without changing them sufficiently, you may be guilty of plagiarism. It's also considered plagiarism if you use another person's ideas in your paper without providing an in-text citation or footnote, even if you include the source in your bibliography.

Why is it important to always cite your sources when you borrow their words or ideas?

  1. It gives credit where credit is due. The original authors invested considerable time and effort into their research and writing, and deserve to be credited for the words and ideas that they produced. Taking their words or ideas without attribution is like stealing their intellectual property.
  2. It helps other scholars (or your professor) track down the original source of your information. Someone who is reading your paper may want to learn more about an idea, study, or statistic to which you refer. If you cite your source, the reader can find and read it. This process of digging into citations is an important part of scholarly research, and it gets short-circuited if writers don't cite their sources.
  3. It makes your original ideas stand out. If you consistently cite your sources when you borrow their words or ideas, then when you make a statement that lacks a citation, the reader can feel confident that this statement is your own original idea. This helps the reader see how you built off your sources to construct new ideas, which makes you look good.

Forms of Plagiarism

A student is considered to have "plagiarized" when he or she has failed to acknowledge his or her sources or has not acknowledged her sources accurately and completely. Plagiarism can occur in many types of assignments, including:

  • Essays, response papers, research papers, senior theses
  • Oral reports, PowerPoint presentations
  • Lab reports
  • Drawings, mathematical proofs, computer projects

Plagiarism occurs any time and every time a writer relies upon the words, ideas, data, theses, positions or product (drawing, design, computer program) of another writer without acknowledging that course fully and correctly.

Some types of plagiarism are intentional attempts to deceive the professor. Intentional plagiarism occurs when a student deliberately chooses to use other people's ideas in part or all of his own assignment without giving credit to the other writer(s). By turning in this type of plagiarized assignment, the student is claiming that the work is his own, but is is not.

Intentional plagiarism occurs when a student turns in an assignment that was:

  • written by another student.
  • originally published in another source such as a journal, newspaper, magazine or website.
  • purchased or downloaded from a website or service which sells essays or provides them for free.

All of these examples are types of intentional plagiarism. It doesn't matter whether you paid for the essay or got it for free, whether your friend gave you permission to use her paper, or whether the original source is published or unpublished. It doesn't even matter if the source has an author listed or if it is anonymous. If you did not write the paper, but you turn it in with your name on it as if you did write it, you have intentionally plagiarized. This type of plagiarism is easy to identify and understand. In these cases, the student didn't do the work, but decided to behave as if he or she did do the work.

Even if a student does not plagiarize the entire assignment, intentional plagiarism can occur. If the student copies and pastes a paragraph, a sentence, or any content from another written or electronic source with out acknowledging that source, he has intentionally plagiarized.

Other forms of intentional plagiarism occur when a student:

  • invents sources and includes them in the bibliography and/or within the paper.
  • deliberately alters material or bibliographic information by revising the opinion of another writer, inventing fake quotations, or changing the date of a publication.
  • treats unauthored internet sources as common knowledge or "sharable" information that does not require citation.
  • deliberately falsifies data for a lab report.

Other types of plagiarism are not completely "intentional" in the same way as the previous examples. In fact, many cases of plagiarism occur as a result of a student's sloppiness, laziness, or failure to learn how to acknowledge sources.

These types of plagiarism include:

  • quoting a source without acknowledging the author with both quotation marks and a citation.
  • failing to quote the original author accurately.
  • paraphrasing incompletely; that is, relying too heavily on the original author's words.
  • relying too heavily on a source while providing too little acknowledgement.
  • using citations incorrectly or incompletely.
  • providing partial or incorrect bibliographic information.

Unfortunately, if you plagiarize because you don't know how to use quotations or because you have not paraphrased correctly, you still have committed plagiarism and violated the College's Academic Integrity policy. Upholding academic integrity requires attention and effort. If you don't care where you are getting your ideas, or if you don't feel like looking up the correct documentation format, you might end up turning in plagiarized work.

Many cases of unintentional plagiarism arise from bad record-keeping and lack of skill in referring to sources. Also, knowing when and how to cite sources correctly is sometimes confusing for any student--even the most serious and organized student. The next sections will explain what sorts of information and elements in your papers require citation.