passing off someone else's work as your own. For example:
Sometimes students plagiarize intentionally. They run out of time to complete an assignment or they're worried about their ability to complete an assignment successfully or they get lazy, and they copy information from a source.
Obviously, intentional plagiarism is a serious academic offense, and students who commit this type of offense face serious academic consequences.
Sometimes students plagiarize unintentionally. They don't have a great deal of practice at paraphrasing and documenting correctly, and they make errors.
When unintentional plagiarism occurs, it can represent a learning opportunity for students -- a time to seek help from the instructor and additional information about documentation styles and how to use them appropriately.
Please note, though, that even unintentional plagiarism can result in serious academic consequences - depending on the specific context within which the plagiarism occurs.
Plagiarism ranges from copying word-for-word to paraphrasing a passage without credit. Below is a sentence from a book. The original source is followed by its use in three student papers. As you read, try to identify which of the students have committed plagiarism.
Original Passage: "Still, the telephone was only a convenience, permitting Americans to do more casually and with less effort what they had already been doing before." (Boorstin, Daniel J. The Americans: The Democratic Experience. New York: Random House, 1973.)
Meg: The telephone was a convenience, enabling Americans to do more casually and with less effort what they had already been doing before.
Brian: Daniel J. Boorstin argues that the telephone was only a convenience, permitting Americans to do more casually and with less effort what they had already been doing before.
Peter: Daniel J. Boorstin has noted that most Americans considered the telephone as simply "a convenience," an instrument that allowed them "to do more casually and with less effort what they had already been doing before" (Boorstin 390).
In these examples, both Meg and Brian have committed plagiarism. Meg doesn’t acknowledge that the words and ideas she uses belong to Boorstin, leaving her readers to think they are hers. Although Brian acknowledges his source, he has copied Boorstin’s original text word for word but has not supplied quotation marks to indicate direct quotation.
Note how Peter's use of Boorstin's words and ideas differs. By naming the author, he has established the authority of his source at the beginning of his sentence. Peter has also provided an in-text citation giving the author and page number (MLA citation style). He has paraphrased some of the author’s words and directly quoted others. His use of quotation marks makes it clear to the reader which words are his and which belong to the author.