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What it is and ways to avoid it, with exercises and examples

What is Plagiarism? Definitions

Plagiarism is the act of presenting someone else’s work, words, or ideas as your own.

More detailed definitions: 

“Simply put, plagiarism is the theft of intellectual property belonging to another.  This includes both the theft of unwritten ideas and concepts as well as the theft of written texts, notes, computer programs, designs, and/or visual materials" (Jones 4) .

"In an instructional setting, plagiarism occurs when a writer deliberately uses someone else’s language, ideas, or other original (not common-knowledge) material without acknowledg­ing its source.This definition applies to texts published in print or on-line, to manuscripts, and to the work of other student writers" (WPA).


Jones, Lars.   Academic Integrity & Academic Dishonesty:  A Handbook About Cheating & Plagiarism. 2011. Print/Web.  Recommended handbook on plagiarism for Florida Tech students and faculty.

WPA (The Council of Writing Program Administrators). Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism:  The WPA Statement on Best Practices.

Consequences of Plagiarism are Serious

Plagiarism is a serious offense:

  • Considered a lack of academic integrity, academic dishonesty, academic fraud, intellectual theft, and cheating.

  • Results in a failing grade in an assignment/course.
  • May result in expulsion from university.
  • Devalues the university and the degree it offers.
  • Damages the reputation of university and its students.
  • Creates the impression of unfairness and not a level playing field for all students.
  • Gives the impression that students don’t care about themselves nor the university.
  • Gives professors the impression that students are lazy and not using their critical thinking skills.
  • Prevents students from the chance to interpret other people’s ideas or develop new ones.

Florida Tech's Plagiarism Examples

The  Florida Tech Student Handbook, under  the heading, Academic Honesty,  gives examples of plagiarism:

  • Handing in a past assignment or a document purchased from a term paper service or any other source.
  • Copying or taking someone else's paper or work and handing it in as your own.
  • Intentionally using an incorrect source in your references, bibliography or work cited page.
  • Appropriating passages or ideas from articles, books, or another person and using them without proper documentation.
  • Quoting a written source on an exam, paper or homework without citation when it is requested by the instructor to present one’s own work.

Causes of Plagiarism

According to the Council of Writing Program Administrators, these are some of the reasons why students plagiarize:

  • Fear of failure, or lack of confidence in their own writing.
  • Poor time management or procrastination.
  • Course, assignment, conventions of academic documentation not considered important.
  • Wanting to get a better grade
  • Not serious about consequences of cheating.
  • Lack of research, writing, and documentation skills
  • Ready access to full-text articles and books through the Internet.
  • Don't know when and how to cite sources.
  • Don't know how to integrate other's ideas or words in their own work and cite those sources properly.
  • Not understanding the western concept that ideas and written expressions of ideas can be owned (intellectual property).
  • Don't know how to take careful and fully documented notes during their research.

Turnitin's 10 Types of Plagiarism

See Turnitin's, “The Plagiarism Spectrum” at:

Some Instances of Plagiarism

8 hilarious instances of plagiarism by Lauren Hansen of THE WEEK:

Know the Rules: Florida Tech Resources & Policies on Plagiarism

- Provides the University's  definition of Academic Honesty, including plagiarism and academic cheating, and procedures for handling violations.  Located under the tab, Standards and Policies.
- Provides definitions and discussions of the most common types of academic dishonesty, with a focus on plagiarism.
- Plagiarism is listed as a violation under the heading, Code of Conduct/Grounds for Disciplinary Action/Academic Dishonesty.

Class Syllabus - includes the class policy on plagiarism. 

Florida Tech uses the following to detect plagiarism in students' assignments:
Turnitin - a plagiarism detection software licensed by Florida Tech
Google - use to look for specific sentences from student's work
Summon - use to search library databases for sentences or citations from student's work

Other Helpful Research Guides

Research Ethics - laws and rules surrounding reuse of information

Copyright Research Guide - addresses most copyright issues

Copyright on Campus  - includes Florida Tech's guidelines