Plagiarism and How to Avoid It

Cheating is the most serious academic offense one can commit at university. These institutions are dedicated to intellectual rigor, research, and personal development. Cheating undermines the very foundations of these pursuits and can quickly lead from sanctions ranging from a “zero” on the assignment, to expulsion, to the revocation of your degree. It is critical that you understand that plagiarism (intentional or otherwise) is cheating and is not allowed.

Plagiarism, simply put, is presenting the work of others as your own. This can be an ill-advised copy/paste, but may also include:

  • Ideas or the structure of an argument
  • Images or graphics
  • Data
  • Programming

You may be asking yourself ‘how am I able to do any work at university if I am not able to draw on the work of experts?’ After all, you are not an expert yourself, you are there to learn about these things! The fact is that you are expected to draw on the work of experts. You should be using the ideas, or images, or data as needed to support the work that you are doing, not presenting as your work in any way. It just needs to be done in the proper way.

Citations give credit to those who created the work you are drawing upon. By giving appropriate credit, you are acknowledging from where this work has come, while providing a solid basis for the work in which you are using it. As a learner in a given field, you are expected to cite the work of others in order to demonstrate that you have conducted research, sought out information, and educated yourself on this subject in order to present a solid case. Proper citations are a form of collaboration with others, and one of the oldest traditions at university.

Knowing how to cite the work of others properly is your responsibility. Your university will have policies and your professor will have expectations regarding format. Various styles include APA, MLA, or possibly Chicago/Turabian. Your instructor will make clear how you are expected to cite source. Please remember that ignorance is not an excuse. Even one instance of plagiarism may lead to sanction.

Helpful Hints

Once you know which style of citation is to be used, become familiar with it. It is especially important to understand how to cite different types of sources, such as books, periodicals, or web sites. As you begin your research, develop the habit of quickly skimming the material to determine if this is something you are likely to use. If so, your first step is to create the citation in your notes, then carefully read the material and note the information you will be using later to make it readily available. This way, you will not need to try and find a source later for some idea or fact that you noted; a task which could prove impossible if you have reviewed multiple sources.

Plagiarism is both one of the most serious and easily avoided of academic offenses. Remember, “an honest mistake” can still be considered cheating. By understanding the expectations, knowing how to cite sources properly, and developing a few simple good habits, you can use the work of experts to create higher-quality original work of your own. Eventually, you will become the expert and others can cite your work to support their arguments. Thus learning and knowledge evolves.

Copyright Ⓒ Juvenis Maxime 2023

Author: Kenneth Knox