Skip to Main Content

Research Foundations: Plagiarism

Plagiarism Defined

icon for plagiarism with scissors and glue crossed out

plagiarism icon

Plagiarism is a broad term meaning the use of previously existing work without properly crediting the original source. It could be as deliberate as submitting someone else’s work as your own or as accidental as forgetting to add quotation marks. In academics, plagiarism constitutes an ethical violation, as all research builds on the knowledge that came before. Whether it is deliberate or accidental, it is a serious concern in both your college and professional careers.

Plagiarism Varieties

There are many varieties of plagiarism to avoid:

  • Turning in a project written entirely or partially by someone else
  • Using slightly different words to rewrite an author’s sentence (paraphrasing) without giving credit to the original source (citation)
  • Copying and pasting text from an online source without properly identifying it
  • Submitting work you did from another class or assignment as original work (self-plagiarism)
  • Using partial or out of context quotations in order to change their original meaning
  • Including original or adapted media or charts/diagrams in your work without properly crediting them

Plagiarism Facts and Fallacies

Plagiarism is probably not a new concept to you. However, students often misunderstand it during the research process. Many common beliefs exist among students that require some clarification.

If you change enough words from the original text, you do not need to cite it.
Whether you paraphrase or quote directly from a source, you must always credit the original information.
Freely available documents do not require citation in a project.
Everything, even free information, used in your project requires credit as a source.
If everyone already knows something, then you do not need to reference a source.
True, information like historic dates, famous sayings, and widely known facts is “common knowledge” does not require documentation. Even if well known to you, any information not easily verifiable should include a citation to be safe.
Information found on a website is in the public domain, since everyone can access it, and does not need a citation.
Unless this information falls into the “common knowledge” category, you must cite it, even if given prior consent to use it in a project.
Forgetting quotation marks around a quote is acceptable as long as you still provide the citation information.
While direct quotations are not necessary for every piece of information used in a project, it is not paraphrasing unless you have used your own words to restate what you learned.

Plagiarism Links

Check out these great resources for more information on plagiarism.