Avoiding Plagiarism

Plagiarism means presenting someone else's ideas, writing, or other work as your own, without crediting the original source. The Merriam Webster OnLine Collegiate Dictionary (http://www.m-w.com) defines plagiarize as:

"to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own : use (another's production) without crediting the source . . . to commit literary theft : present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source."

Although copyright law protects an author's work, not ideas, the unacknowledged use of someone else's ideas is also considered plagiarism, and is not tolerated in an academic setting.

The act of plagiarizing may be accidental or deliberate. Accidental plagiarism occurs when a writer does not intend to plagiarize, but neglects to cite sources correctly or completely. Understanding the rules for citing and paraphrasing sources can help you avoid accidentally stealing someone else's work.

Deliberate plagiarism is knowingly copying the work of others, from any source, and turning it as your own. Whether you copy from a book, newspaper, an encyclopedia, or a web page, you are plagiarizing.

Some examples of plagiarism include:

  • Taking a concept or idea from a source without citing (accidental or deliberate)
  • Using original text when paraphrasing
  • Buying a paper from a term paper service
  • Copying a friend's paper and handing it in as your own
  • Copying and pasting a paragraph from a web page into the text of a research paper

The following web sites offer tips for avoiding plagiarism and discuss when to cite and how to paraphrase sources: