What is plagiarism?
Plagiarism by students is a serious problem in high schools and colleges in the USA . Plagiarism has risen to epidemic proportions; students in every semester often talk about how “everyone” cheated or plagiarized in high school. Although you may have participated in this activity in the past, once you come to college you are held to higher expectations during your pursuit of your baccalaureate education and the remainder of your life. These heightened expectations include your ability to analyze and synthesis information that you are exposed to into ideas of you own, presented in your own unique way.
Although the concept of plagiarism can be discussed from many perspectives, being both legally and ethically wrong, it is a blatant form of cheating. Beyond your not giving credit for someone else’s work, a main reason you should not plagiarize should be rooted to your not wanting to cheat yourself out of your own education. If you do not learn how to formulate and communicate ideas for yourself while in college, you will not do well working in your chosen careers where communication is a key skill in every discipline. Please think about using your years in college for what they are intended: learning skills that will benefit you throughout your life. The values you learn now will follow you throughout your lifetime and be passed on to future generations.
Because students often are confused about what is and is not plagiarism, we have prepared this information to help students understand what is acceptable and how to avoid being unintentionally accused of plagiarism. We all understand that there are many gray areas regarding plagiarism; hence, if you have any questions, ask your instructor! Plagiarism is a very serious offense and it can be grounds for failure on an assignment, failure in a course or possible expulsion from the university.
Plagiarism is easy to avoid by using common sense and following the advice and directions for acknowledging sources. Such forms and methods are available from professors and style sheets provided by departments as well as by a composition textbook. Never take notes verbatim or in your own words without using appropriate quotation marks and noting exact sources, including page number of the material.
- Plagiarism is using the work/ideas of another as if they were your own, without enclosing the words of others in quotations and giving the appropriate credit.
- Plagiarism is not using footnotes and other citations when the ideas you use are not your own.
- Plagiarism can include copying from a web page, from another’s lab report from a previous semester or from any other source without giving appropriate credit.
- Plagiarism also includes using work you have already submitted for another assignment without the permission of the professor. This is a form of plagiarism called self-plagiarism.
- Plagiarism can be applied to all disciplines (e.g. both humanities and the sciences) and include: ideas, research, art, music, graphs, diagrams, websites, data, books, newspapers, magazines, plays, movies, photos, and speeches.
Note that the intent of a plagiarist is completely irrelevant. The act of quoting material without including the correct quotations and credit is sufficient to charge someone with the plagiarism. Although I have heard this often enough, it is no defense for the plagiarist to say “I forgot to add the references.” or “It was only a rough draft.” or “I did not know it was plagiarism.”
How does this relate to you?
DO NOT copy anything off a website, out of a book, newspaper, journal or any other printed source without using quotations. The most blatant example is to directly copy something word for word. It does not matter if it is only a phrase. If it is not your work/idea, either do not use it or place it in quotes and reference it. There are different methods for doing this. The important thing is that the reader can tell what your own work is, and what someone else’s is.
1. For short quotes, use quotation marks in the sentence. An example is:
“Zymase, an enzyme from yeast, changes the simple sugars into ethanol and carbon dioxide. The ethanol produced by fermentation ranges in concentration from a few percent up to about 14 percent. Above about 14 percent, ethanol destroys the zymase enzyme and fermentation stops.” [(http://scifun.chem.wisc.edu/chemweek/ethanol/ethanol.html)]
2. For longer quotes it is appropriate to indent the entire passage:
Ethanol acts as a drug affecting the central nervous system. Its complex and variable behavioral effects depend on how the blood concentration changes with time, as well as on the absolute dose ingested. Rising ethanol concentrations activate brain centers associated with feelings of reward and pleasure. However, as soon as ethanol levels begin to fall, those feelings give way to craving sensations. In the figure at right, compare the effect of rapidly ingesting one versus 6 ounces of ethanol. Drinking 6 ounces does not markedly prolong the rising (pleasure-inducing) phase, but it prolongs the falling (craving-inducing) phase six-fold. This phenomenon is likely a root cause of drinking to excess and alcoholism.
Another reason to use references is to show where you get information from so that others can find this information again. When you state a fact, unless it is “common knowledge,” you must state from where it comes. Otherwise, an interested reader will have no method to verify your statement for accuracy. Although it may seem subjective to decide what “common knowledge” is, but you must keep in mind who is your audience. If your paper is about the production of ethanol industrially, information you want to use may be “common knowledge” to people working in the industry but unless you work in that industry yourself, it is not considered common knowledge to everyone. Likewise, just because there are several websites that contain the same or similar information, that is not an excuse to copy it without referencing.
Without a reference, why should the reader believe you?
Bottom line: If you use something word for word it MUST be acknowledged appropriately. Things start to get a bit gray when you paraphrase. Avoid this dilemma by giving credit if you are unsure. This avoids any ambiguity about the source and you protect yourself. After all, you do not want someone to accuse you of plagiarism when it may be unintentional.
You need to learn how to write in your own voice. Especially in the sciences, much of the information you relate through your work will not be of your own knowledge but will be taken from scientific sources. An instructor who is reading or grading your work is interested in YOUR understanding of an idea, not in your ability to copy the textbook. I know that the author of the book understands it well enough, which is probably why we picked the textbook. We are looking to determine if YOU understand it.
Understanding and learning is more than just regurgitating something you have read in one place. Writing is a valuable exercise that tests your ability to explain a topic. One often thinks they understand something, until they try to write it out or explain it someone else. This is a pivotal skill that we want you to learn.
How do you avoid plagiarism?
When using another person’s words, use ALL of the following strategies:
- Provide a citation, either in the text using parentheses and APA guidelines or in a footnote, AND
- Either enclose their words inside quotation marks or put their words in a block of indented, single-spaced text.
- Ask your instructor for help in determining if what you have written is indeed plagiarism.
What is cheating?
You are cheating if you:
- Copy answers or use information from another student’s paper during any assignment: e.g. prelab, quiz, test, or examination.
- Divulge answers or information, or otherwise give or accept improper aid to another student during an assignment: e.g. quiz, test, or examination.
- Relay or receive any improperly obtained or confidential information concerning a quiz, test, or examination. (Example: if one sees (accidentally or not) an assignment before it is to be given to the class and transmits information concerning its contents or whereabouts to other students.)
- Use or refer to any unauthorized notes, books, calculators, problem solving aids such as “cheat sheets” during an assignment: e.g. quiz, test, or examination.
- Collaborate improperly with another student on an open-book or take-home quiz, test or examination, or obtain information from an unsuspecting fellow student or instructor during such an assignment. (For example, students might ask another professor for help on an assignment for which they do not disclose that the assignment is for credit in a class.)
- As a proctor or student assistant, divulge confidential information or aid any student in an improper manner during a laboratory exercise, quiz, test, or examination.
- Commit an act of plagiarism in any form.
- Borrow under false pretenses, steal or otherwise improperly obtain lecture or research notes, laboratory data, or any information gathered by another student and presents it as your own work (examples: term papers; laboratory reports or experimental yields; computer programs or assignments; English composition themes), or knowingly collaborate with another student by making such material available to him/her.
- Falsify laboratory data, notes, results, or research data of any type in any course and present it as your own work.
- Steal or intentionally damage or destroy notes, research data, laboratory projects, library materials, computer software (including the intentional passing of a computer virus), or any other work of another student (or faculty member), out of malice, or for the purpose of sabotaging that person’s work and thereby gaining an unfair advantage to yourself.
- Knowingly and willingly violate any special rules concerning research procedures, group assignments, or inter-student collaboration, which may be established by an instructor in any course.
- Submit the same work including oral presentations for different courses without the permission of the instructors involved. Since it is expected that different courses offer different learning experiences, students are depriving themselves of an educational opportunity by submitting the same or similar work for more than one course. Examples include but are not limited to submitting a partial or complete paper previously handed into another class, superficially reworking one assignment for submissions to another class. (Example: submitting a sociology paper as an English 100 paper.)
- Misrepresent yourself to an instructor or an administrator for the purpose of gaining special favors or extensions for academic work missed. Examples include but are not limited to lying about your health or the health of a relative, forging doctor’s notes.
- Forge signatures on forms, documents, or letters pertinent to College business. This may include but is not limited to course of study sheets, drop/add forms, or doctor’s notes. Using family or family friends to provide documentation that falsely excuses you from responsibilities is also a form of cheating.
You are an accessory to cheating, and penalties may be applied, if you:
- Witness or have direct knowledge of any of the aforementioned forms of cheating and fail to inform an authorized person (faculty member, administrator, proctor. or student assistant).
- You bring unauthorized materials into a testing area and fail to or refuse to remove them when instructed to do so.
- You fail to or refuse to comply with admonitions from a faculty member or authorized proctor to cease any activity, which might aid other students in cheating.
Helpful links about plagiarism
Plagiarism.org offers detailed information on the technologies behind Turnitin and iThenticate as well as facts about the rise of internet plagiarism.
A comprehensive website with many Links, Articles, Copyright & Intellectual Freedom, Plagiarism Case Studies, Plagirism Detection Tools, Term Paper Sites, Ethics Resources on plagiarism.
Turn It In
Recognized worldwide as the standard in Plagiarism Prevention. Turnitin instantly identifies papers containing unoriginal material and acts as a powerful deterrent to stop student plagiarism before it starts.
Much of the above has been adapted from, and credit is given to Millward, Handbook for Writers, pp. 354-355.