PLAGIARISM IN HIGHER EDUCATION
The Department of English insists on strict standards of academic honesty in all courses. Any plagiarism will be penalized severely. The following discussion has been prepared so that no student will commit plagiarism out of ignorance.
Plagiarism is the act of passing off someone else’s work as your own.
It sounds like simple dishonesty, and it often is. Anyone who buys, borrows, or steals a paper to turn in as his/her own work knows he/she is plagiarizing. Anyone who copies word-for-word–or who copies, changing a word here and there–WITHOUT ENCLOSING THE COPIED PASSAGE IN QUOTATION MARKS AND IDENTIFYING THE AUTHOR should know that he/she is plagiarizing.
But plagiarism can be more complicated in act and intent.
Paraphrase, which is stating something in different words, can be a useful device, but it can lead, more or less unintentionally, to plagiarism. Jotting down notes and ideas from sources, and then using them without proper identification may result in a paper which is only a mosaic of others’ words and ideas. Even the use of particular phrases may constitute plagiarism. And too much proofreading or rhetorical help from friends may also amount to plagiarism.
Writing courses pose particular problems. The conscientious writer keeps careful track of sources and diligently tries to distinguish between what is his/her own and what comes from others. Did part of what you are saying come from an identifiable source? Say so. If in doubt, talk with your instructor. If you are getting help from someone other than your instructor, let your instructor know, so that the two of you together can decide what kind and how much outside help is proper.
In a discussion of plagiarism, it is hard to avoid talking about ideas as if they were objects like tables and chairs. Of course they are not. You should not feel that you are under pressure to invent new ideas–which is probably impossible. So-called original writing consists of thinking through ideas and expressing them in your own way. The result may not be new, but if honestly done, it may well be interesting and worthwhile. Other people may add to your thoughts. When they do so in identifiable and specific ways, give them the credit they deserve.
The examples following should make clear the dishonest and the proper use of source material.