What is Plagiarism?

(According to plagiarism.org)

What is plagiarism

Many people think of plagiarism as copying another’s
work, or borrowing someone else’s original ideas. But terms like “copying” and
“borrowing” can disguise the seriousness of the offense:

According to the Merriam-Webster Online
Dictionary, to “plagiarize” means

  • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own

    to use (another’s production) without crediting the source

  • to commit literary theft
  • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an
    existing source.


In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It
involves both stealing someone else’s work and lying about it afterward.

But can words and ideas really be stolen?

According to U.S. law, the answer is yes. The expression
of original ideas is considered intellectual property, and is protected by
copyright laws, just like original inventions. Almost all forms of expression
fall under copyright protection as long as they are recorded in some way (such
as a book or a computer file).

All of the following are considered plagiarism:

  • turning in someone else’s
    work as your own
  • copying words or ideas
    from someone else without giving credit
  • failing to put a quotation
    in quotation marks
  • giving incorrect
    information about the source of a quotation
  • changing words but copying
    the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
  • copying so many words or
    ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you
    give credit or not (see our section on “fair use” rules)

Most cases of plagiarism can be avoided, however, by citing sources. Simply
acknowledging that certain material has been borrowed, and providing your
audience with the information necessary to find that source, is usually enough
to prevent plagiarism.

What is citation?

A “citation” is the way you
tell your readers that certain material in your work came from another source.
It also gives your readers the information necessary to find that source again,

  • information about the
  • the title of the work
  • the name and location of
    the company that published your copy of the source
  • the date your copy was
  • the page numbers of the
    material you are borrowing

Why should I cite sources?

Giving credit to the original author by citing sources is the only way to use
other people’s work without plagiarizing. But there are a number of other
reasons to cite sources:

  • Citations are extremely
    helpful to anyone who wants to find out more about your ideas and where they
    came from.
  • Not all sources are good
    or right — your own ideas may often be more accurate or interesting than
    those of your sources. Proper citation will keep you from taking the rap for
    someone else’s bad ideas.
  • Citing sources shows the
    amount of research you’ve done.
  • Citing sources strengthens
    your work by lending outside support to your ideas.

Doesn’t citing sources make my work seem less

Not at all. On the contrary, citing sources actually helps your reader
distinguish your ideas from those of your sources. This will actually emphasize
the originality of your own work.

When do I need to cite?

Whenever you borrow words or ideas, you need to acknowledge their source. The
following situations almost always require citation:

  • Whenever you use quotes
  • Whenever you paraphrase
  • Whenever you use an idea
    that someone else has already expressed
  • Whenever you make specific
    reference to the work of another
  • Whenever someone else’s
    work has been critical in developing your own ideas.

For more information on plagiarism, check out


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