Skip to main content

Home: Plagiarism

Library's Homepage


“What is Plagiarism?”

To "plagiarize" is to present someone else's writing or ideas as your own.  The most common example is copying something word for word, including phrases unique to someone's writing style, without the use of quotation marks.   You also plagiarize when you use someone's ideas without giving them credit.

Word-for-Word Plagiarism

If you wrote your paper all by yourself, you will have a certain style or “voice” to your writing that can be identified by your teacher.  Most likely, your teacher has had you in class for a while and has read your writing on tests and short essays.  When your teacher comes across writing that “doesn’t sound like you,” he or she can easily Google the phrases that stand out, print them, and give you your zero.  It’s simply not worth it to try.   In addition to the fact that you learned nothing in the process and you are unprepared for higher education, you will face disciplinary action that may preclude you from induction to the National Honor Society (or could lead to your expulsion).  According to the Monty Tech Student Handbook:

Any student caught cheating by a teacher will receive a grade of zero (0) for the work involved.  In addition, the incident will be reported to the Dean of Students on a referral form.  Repeated offenses may result in course failure and/or suspension (47-48). 

Idea Stealing

In addition to the obvious word-for-word plagiarism, you also plagiarize when you use someone's ideas without giving them credit.  When you don't cite ideas or information your sources, you are telling the world that YOU came up with these ideas, not the original author.  In a research paper, it is likely that very few ideas will be your own.  It is expected that the introductory paragraph and the conclusion, along with the thesis statement will be from you, but the evidence to support those ideas will not be.  Teachers can usually tell if you came up with the ideas presented based on the content of the paper and your experience with the subject matter.  For example, if you are writing a paper on the significance of the Battle of the Bulge, your teacher knows that you are not a World War II scholar and expects almost all of your research to be cited.   If it isn’t, you are effectively implying that you did the research and you could be accused of plagiarism.  At the very least, it’s sloppy scholarship and not worthy of a respectable grade.  You do not state from which source you found the information and so it’s impossible to verify your information.

To provide appropriate credit, you need parenthetical citations and the source needs to be listed at the end of your paper in a “Works Cited” (MLA format) or a “References” page (APA format).

“But I didn't mean to plagiarize!”

Students sometimes plagiarize unintentionally. To recap, plagiarism includes:

·     Copying word-for-word without quotes.
·     Copying phrases unique to someone's writing style without quotes.
·     Stating ideas and information that were researched, organized, and interpreted by someone else without properly citing. 

Anything not considered common knowledge, needs a citation.   Here’s a rule of thumb: If you didn't know it before you read it, then it isn't common knowledge. Cite it!

This example of plagiarism is from Purdue University's OWL website:

The original passage:
Students frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes, and as a result they overuse quotations in the final [research] paper. Probably only about 10% of your final manuscript should appear as directly quoted matter. Therefore, you should strive to limit the amount of exact transcribing of source materials while taking notes. Lester, James D., Writing Research Papers. 2nd ed. (1976): 46-47.

A plagiarized version:
Students often use too many direct quotations when they take notes, resulting in too many of them in the final research paper. In fact, probably only about 10% of the final copy should consist of directly quoted material. So it is important to limit the amount of source material copied while taking notes.

This is a common example of plagiarism. The student just changed certain words.  For example, "overuse" is replaced with "use too many.” This is considered plagiarism because the student is using the exact meaning and sentence structure of the author.  The student also did not provide a parenthetical citation.

A legitimate paraphrase:
In research papers students often quote excessively, failing to keep quoted material down to a desirable level. Since the problem usually originates during note taking, it is essential to minimize the material recorded verbatim (Lester 46-47).

An acceptable summary:
Students should take just a few notes in direct quotation from sources to help minimize the amount of quoted material in a research paper (Lester 46-47).