The primary aim of university education is for students to develop the ability to think independently. For this reason, students must never pass off the work or ideas of others as their own. Plagiarism is cheating. It is a serious offense, punishable under university regulations: if you are caught plagiarizing, under university regulations you will automatically fail the course. Do not plagiarize: it defeats the very purpose of being in the university.
What is plagiarism? It includes A) copying other students’ work, and B) copying from sources, from print or from the web, without proper citation.
A) means that your work, such as a term paper, cannot contain the same words or exact same ideas as those of your fellow students.
B) means that if you are using any of the words that appear in a book or article or on a website, you must use quotation marks, and properly cite the author. Let’s look at an example. If you are writing about the meaning of culture and write
Culture is an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols
without any reference to the original author of the definition, this is plagiarism. If you write
As Clifford Geertz has argued, culture is an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols
this is also plagiarism, because while you mention Geertz, you haven’t put his words in quotation marks and haven’t included any reference. The proper form would be,
As Clifford Geertz (1973: 89) has argued, culture is “an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols.”
The book that this definition comes from then would appear in your bibliography. It is very good to use other people’s words in your papers, as long as you let the reader know which words are borrowed and where they come from.
Plagiarism is usually very easy to spot. Some of you, when you are facing a deadline and are in a hurry, may rely too much on others’ published writings in your own writing, and may in this way edge into plagiarism. Don’t do this, for you will almost certainly be found out. Instead, put your ideas in your own words, and work to improve your writing. There are facilities on campus to help you improve your writing skills. Check out the Independent Learning Center’s services.
If you have questions about any of this, or any doubts about what does or does not constitute plagiarism, please consult with any of your teachers: we’re happy to help.