Chapter 15: Avoiding Plagiarism

Introduction to Chapter 15

In college, it is essential to practice academic integrity. Practicing academic integrity means that you respect other people’s work and give credit to the original author when using someone else’s work. This chapter will help you learn more about academic integrity and how to avoid issues with plagiarism.

15.1     Academic Integrity

Before we go over what it means to avoid plagiarism, watch the following video to learn about the importance of academic integrity:

15.2     Plagiarism: What It Is and How to Avoid It

Plagiarism happens when we use another person’s intellectual materials and don’t give them credit. Intellectual property is defined as any kind of material (i.e., writing, art, music, film, etc.) or ideas envisioned and created by another person.

Plagiarism is a kind of academic dishonesty—a kind of theft. Colleges and universities take plagiarism seriously; many discipline or even expel students who are found to be plagiarizing.

Many educators used to believe that students plagiarized either because they were lazy or because they just didn’t care about anything but getting that final piece of paper: the degree or certificate. Both of these reasons are still true sometimes: there are people who don’t like to work hard (or at all!) or who, in the case of college, just want that piece of paper and don’t care how they get it.

But today, thanks to work by innovative educators, instructors know that plagiarism and cheating are often motivated by more complicated factors:

  • Students may plagiarize due to poor time management. They may wait until the night before an assignment is due, and then pass off another person’s work as their own because they have run out of time to complete the assignment.
  • Students may accidentally plagiarize because they don’t know how to use proper citation. These students may not have learned how to use MLA (Modern Language Association) or APA (the American Psychological Association) citation styles.
  • Students may accidentally plagiarize because they have poor note taking skills. These students may take notes while reading but forget to keep track of where they found the original information.

As for you: how can you avoid plagiarism? It’s actually quite simple:

  1. As much as possible, do your own work. In other words, always start by writing what you know about a subject, turning to sources only when you need to support your own ideas with authoritative backing or when there’s a knowledge gap you cannot fill on your own or, of course, to satisfy requirements imposed by your teacher, i.e., who asks you use a certain number of sources in completing an assignment. But even then, much of the work should be your own.
  2. Take notes carefully. If you add source material to your work, mark it or identify it in such a way that you will know it’s from a source. Cite the work immediately and add it to your works cited list or reference page.
  3. And, if you use someone else’s intellectual property, you must give them credit. If you bring their work into your assignment, you must mention them as the work’s owners.

College students studying English or writing will use MLA—Modern Language Association—citation to set up their papers and handle sources. To properly cite intellectual property (also called source materials) in your writing, you must do the following:

  • Mention the source’s owner/creator in your written work at the point where the source is used.
  • When including a direct quote, use the exact words from the original and place quotation marks around the quote. Include page numbers if they are available.
  • When summarizing or paraphrasing, write the author’s ideas in your own words and give credit to the original author.
  • Create a list of all of the sources you used in your assignment; you’ll do this by arranging them in a works cited list at the end of your essay.
  • Make sure sources on the works cited page are actually cited in your essay. If you read some source materials to learn more about your topic but do not mention them in your paper, you do not need to list them in the works cited list. But if you later end up using those sources in your paper, then you’ll need to add them to your works cited.

Check Your Understanding: Plagiarism

There are a number of different practices which could lead to or be defined as plagiarism, so it’s important that you understand what constitutes plagiarism and what doesn’t. Which of these would be a kind of plagiarism?

  • Copying written material from the Web and pasting it into your paper so it would look like you wrote it.
  • Overhearing someone’s great idea while riding in an elevator and then later sharing the idea and saying it was yours.
  • Finding a beautiful photograph on the Web and using it as your profile picture on social media without showing the photographer’s name.
  • Citing lines of poetry in a blog post without mentioning the poet.


Answers for the Check Your Understanding Activities

15.1: Plagiarism

All of the examples are a kind of plagiarism. Did you get them all correct? Remember: any time you use someone else’s intellectual property—of any kind—you must give them credit by acknowledging their name and providing information about the source.


Licenses and Attributions

  • Introduction to Chapter 15 was authored by: Pamela Herrington-Moriarty. License: CC BY-NC 4.0

CC Licensed Content, Shared Previously:

Video Content

Academic Dishonesty” by CNM Online


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Integrated Reading and Writing Level 2 by Pamela Herrington Moriarty is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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