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Academics (Teaching Excellence): Writing

By Dennis Dix, MS

What is plagiarism?

Today’s student has access to very powerful research tools that provide instant access to a variety of educational sources.  One problem is that it is too easy and often too tempting to simply cut and paste from items found on the Internet and present them as original work.

Do not assume that your students already know what plagiarism is.  If you are going to expect honest work from your students you will need to be explicit as to what that means.  Take the opportunity to post documents or teach your students about plagiarism.  This makes this process a teaching moment but also enables you to hold your students accountable for the information

Black’s Law Dictionary defines Plagiarism as

“The act of appropriating the literary composition of another, or parts of his [or her] writings, or the ideas or language of the same, and passing them off as the product of one’s own mind.  If the material is protected by copyright, such act may constitute an offense of copyright infringement (p. 1150).”

Below is a link to an entertaining, but very informative, tutorial on plagiarism that you can include in your classes!

Why is avoiding plagiarism important?

  1. It is usually easy for instructors to detect.  If you are caught plagiarizing you may automatically fail the assignment, risk failure in the class, and possibly be expelled from  the college.
  2. It is stealing.
  3. It is usually a waste of student time: students spend hours searching and rearranging sentences when they could have completed the assignment much more quickly by just doing it.
  4. It is a waste of your instructor’s time:  They would much rather be grading and critiquing your work and the work of your peers – rather than trying to catch you cheating.
  5. It is unfair to your classmates: for the same reason cited above.
  6. It is a bad habit.  Once you start getting away with it, you run the risk of becoming intellectually lazy and almost self justified (see below).

Some common excuses student give for plagiarism:

“What’s the big deal, it was only a sentence of two?”

As noted in the definition above, taking “parts [of someone else’s work] and passing them off [as your own]” is plagiarizing.  You must use PROPER citations and other procedures such as quotes, page numbers, etc., when using someone else’s words.

“I have done it this way in other classes and I am a straight A student!”

OK – so you’ve been getting away with academic dishonesty (and possibly crimes) up to now; but that is no excuse to keep getting away with it.  You’ve been caught and must now face the consequences. 

“I am unfamiliar with the APA citation style.”

Consider yourself on notice.  You are required to know proper citation procedures in this class, and if you are caught misrepresenting someone else’s work as your own, you will fail.  No excuses.