Plagiarism and Intellectual Property

What is plagiarism? Find out how you can avoid it in your academic work, and why you should.

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Almost without fail, colleges and universities take plagiarism and academic dishonesty extremely seriously.

An academic institution, its students and its reputation depend on upholding rigorous standards of academic conduct.

But if you are just entering college or still in high school, you may not be familiar with the strict definitions of plagiarism used by colleges. It’s wise to learn before you go to avoid any chance of – even accidentally – committing the serious offense of plagiarism.

What Is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is when you take another person’s work or ideas and pass them off as your own. If you look at a friend’s paper and just steal her ideas, that’s plagiarism. If you take information from a book or website and don’t cite your source, that also can be plagiarism.

Most schools have a definition of plagiarism and how it is treated in the academic community in their honor codes.

Duke University’s library website defines plagiarism like this: “Scholarly authors generously acknowledge their debts to predecessors by carefully giving credit to each source. Whenever you draw on another’s work, you must specify what you borrowed whether facts, opinions, or quotations and where you borrowed it from.”

Many schools also try to stress the seriousness of plagiarism. For example, Wesleyan University’s Student Handbook states: “Nearly all Wesleyan students mean to be honest, but some do not appreciate the extent to which plagiarism is dishonest. It is important to recognize that plagiarism theft, not of ideas, which are in a sense the property of everyone, but of the credit for originating ideas.”

The Dartmouth College Institute for Writing and Rhetoric has a comprehensive guide to plagiarism and the use of sources that can be helpful for students at any academic institution.

Pomona College also has an extremely helpful downloadable guide to plagiarism-related issues including note taking and the writing process.

The Consequences of Plagiarism

The consequences of plagiarism are always severe.

Failure to properly cite or unintentional plagiarism can be met with a failing grade on your paper. If you intentionally plagiarize someone else’s work, professors will almost always immediately give you a failing grade for the entire class and kick you out. In fact, severe cases can lead to your complete expulsion from college.

Rutgers University, for example, has a four-tier system in which first-level violations can result in the student attending a mandatory workshop or seminar on academic honesty, along with other sanctions. Further violations can lead to increasingly harsh punishments including failing grades, suspension and, eventually, expulsion.

How to Avoid Plagiarism

Luckily, there’s an easy way to avoid plagiarizing: Do your own work. Don’t cheat, and when you use information from another source, cite the source properly. Talk to your professors if you’re worried about it, but remember that as long as you don’t steal from others, you’ll be fine.

Paper-Writing Services

New technology has, of course, had an effect on issues surrounding plagiarism. The ease with which material can be copied from electronic sources has led to an even greater threat of plagiarism.

Paper-writing services and other illegal sources of material have proliferated. Be assured, that academic institutions are aware of these services. Any attempt to pass off material written by someone else is considered plagiarism.

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