5.2 Plagiarism

Plagiarism is the presentation of someone else’s work as your own.

More formally stated it is the act of claiming language, ideas, opinions, theories, software code, artistic material, or anything else developed by another person without acknowledging that person as the source of the material.

In the world of cut and paste, it is incredibly easy to commit plagiarism and not even be aware of doing so. Regardless of whether it is intentional or unintentional, plagiarism is dishonest, unfair, and unethical.

There are serious consequences for both intentional and unintentional plagiarism. Ignorance is not an excuse. As a student, the consequences of plagiarism can range from the loss of credit for a course to expulsion from school. In the work world, the consequences of plagiarism can range from loss of your professional reputation to loss of your job and destruction of your career. As a student, you should be familiar with your school’s academic integrity policies. As one example, Central Oregon Community College (COCC) publishes the COCC Student Rights and Responsibilities, which spells out the consequences for committing plagiarism at COCC (see the “Academic Honesty” sub-heading in Section C of the Rights and Responsibilities). Your school likely has a similar policy.

Examples of plagiarism:

  • Copying and pasting from a source into your work without attribution
  • Purchasing a paper online or from another student
  • Turning in the same work in two different classes (self-plagiarism)
  • Failing to put quotation marks around direct quotes in your work
  • Copying a diagram, image, graph, or photo into your work without referencing the source
  • Copying and pasting text and changing just a few words or phrases to “put it into your own words,” sometimes referred to as patch writing
  • Using information gained in a personal interview or conversation without citing the source
  • Failing to cite sources for any information that you used in your paper

Only information considered to be universally common knowledge, such as dates of important events and widely known facts, can be used without citing the source.

Credit must always be given to others for

  • their words, either quoted or paraphrased
  • their artistic material
  • their research findings, analysis, and conclusions

The primary way to avoid plagiarism is to cite or list the sources you used in preparing your work. Citing sources is the way you tell your audience whose works you used and to give credit to the creators of those works. It has the side benefit of providing your audience with a bibliography of relevant items on that topic.

Chapter Attribution Information

This chapter was derived by Annemarie Hamlin, Chris Rubio, and Michele DeSilva, Central Oregon Community College, from Plagiarism: A derivative from The Information Literacy User’s Guide edited by Greg Bobish and Trudi Jacobson, CC: BY-NC-SA 3.0 US and Plagiarism by Virginia Tech Libraries, CC: BY-NC-SA 4.0 and Plagiarism: Avoid it at all costs! by UCD Library, CC: BY-NC-SA 4.0


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Technical Writing Copyright © 2017 by Allison Gross, Annemarie Hamlin, Billy Merck, Chris Rubio, Jodi Naas, Megan Savage, and Michele DeSilva is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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