Grace Hauenstein Library  
   

Plagiarism

 
With the increasing availability of information on the World Wide Web, plagiarism and cyber plagiarism have become more common. This page provides information about recognizing and avoiding plagiarism, as well as guidelines for faculty regarding teaching students about plagiarism issues.
 
 
What exactly is plagiarism?
Plagiarism is a form of cheating and a form of lying. Usually it's a way of trying to complete an assignment without doing all of the necessary work. A writer plagiarizes when he or she turns in a paper that contains passages or important ideas written by someone else and doesn't give credit to the original author.
 
At Aquinas, we see a difference between two kinds of plagiarism. The rules and regulations for quoting and citing material in college-level work are fairly complicated, and students new to this work can sometimes make mistakes that technically result in plagiarism. We call this unintentional plagiarism, and although it's serious, almost always professors will give you a chance to remedy the problem and learn from your mistakes.
 
But there's a more serious kind of plagiarism that involves a deliberate lie and an effort to cheat. Intentional plagiarism is a flagrant attempt to take the easy way out of an assignment by presenting a whole paper or parts of one that were written by someone else, and not telling where the material came from.
 
Here are some examples of intentional plagiarism:
  • Taking paragraphs from articles or books and including them in your paper without providing proper citations.
  • Taking important ideas from sources and including them in your paper as if you thought them up.
  • Cutting and pasting material from the Internet into your paper without citing your sources.
  • Letting someone else (a friend, classmate, parent, etc.) write all or parts of your paper for you.
  • Buying a paper from a commercial source and submitting it as your own, or taking a paper from a classmate, friend, sibling, or anyone else and submitting it as if you wrote it.
  • Submitting drawings, paintings, musical compositions, computer files, or any other kinds of material created originally by someone else, and claiming or implying that you created it yourself.
  • Turning in the same paper for more than one assignment.
(Adapted from Hope College Plagiarism web page: www.hope.edu/lib/plagiarism/what.html)
 
Why does plagiarism matter? Is anyone really hurt by it?
Plagiarism short-circuits learning.
Professors assign papers to provide opportunities to deepen and enrich your learning in a course. When you write a paper, you go beyond what's been said in the textbook or in the classroom, and make the learning your own. When a student plagiarizes a paper, the student misses the chance to learn.
 
Plagiarism destroys the relationship of trust between faculty and students.
Students need to be able to trust their professors. They need confidence that professors are up-to-date in the information they present, accurate in their portrayal of texts and theories, reliably fair in their evaluations of students' work.
 
Likewise, professors need to trust their students. They have to have confidence in the truthfulness of students' statements in class, the honesty of their efforts to learn, and their trustworthiness in the papers and projects they submit for grading.
 
Academic work at the college and university level depends on the give and take of ideas in the classroom, on the discussion and debates we carry on with one another, and on the honest presentation of ideas in written papers, articles, and books. In order for us to do our daily work in college, we need to have confidence in the truthfulness of our colleagues in this work-both professors and students.
 
Plagiarism destroys this confidence and seriously damages the atmosphere in which genuine learning takes place.
 
Plagiarism subverts the values central to an Aquinas College education.
Aquinas's vision and mission statements emphasize the moral and ethical dimensions of our community. The Vision Statement includes these statements:
 
  • Aquinas students seek to "develop their character and answer God's calling to use their gifts and talents to make a positive difference in our world through their lives, work and service."
  • "Aquinas strives to graduate students of competence, conscience, compassion and commitment."
 
The Mission Statement includes these values:
  • "an openness to the truth, wherever it may be found"
  • "holistic student development -- intellectual, personal, social, physical, spiritual... "
  • "service to others as a way of living one's beliefs....and as a connection between the individual and society...."
 
These and many other descriptions of the Aquinas community make clear that the fair, just, honest relationships among students and between students and professors is essential for our work together.
 
Ethical uses of information and honesty in writing matter throughout one's lifetime.
The fair use of information and the honest presentation of one's self are important responsibilities for career and citizenship. The habits students develop in college as they write papers prepare them for the kinds of writing and speaking they will do throughout a lifetime. Honesty and fairness cannot be compartmentalized as character traits to be practiced later, "when it really matters." If a writer plagiarizes in college, is it realistic to expect that he or she won't do so later?
 
Plagiarism is unfair to classmates.
A paper assignment requires all the members of a class to do a significant amount of work. When one person plagiarizes, classmates who do honest work are likely to feel betrayed and angry.
 
Plagiarism destroys independent creative and critical thinking.
A primary purpose of higher education is to guide students in becoming independent, original thinkers. Creative and critical thought are subverted when a student plagiarizes, and a basic reason for being in college is undermined.
 
Plagiarism carries serious consequences.
Plagiarism carries severe disciplinary and financial consequences. When a student is proven to have plagiarized a paper, he or she faces serious penalties, ranging from failure on the assignment to failure in the course. These penalties will be reported to the college's Dean of Students, who will enter the offense in the student's record. Repeated acts of plagiarism will lead to dismissal from the college.
 
Plagiarism in the professional world can also lead to serious consequences, including professional disgrace, loss of position, and lawsuits.
(Adapted from Hope College Plagiarism web page: www.hope.edu/lib/plagiarism/why.html)
 
What are the penalties?
Aquinas gives professors some choices about how to deal with students who plagiarize.
 
If a professor believes that a student commits plagiarism because he or she is trying to do honest work but doesn't know all of the rules and regulations about how to cite sources, the professor will usually impose some kind of penalty and require the student to redo the work. The penalty might be a lower grade or even failure for the assignment, but usually the student will still be able to pass the course if the other work in the semester is good enough.
 
When a professor believes a student has intended to lie about the source of ideas and words, and has tried to cheat on an assignment, the penalties are much stiffer. The professor can fail the student for the assignment and can also fail the student for the course. In fact, the usual penalty for this kind of plagiarism is failure for the course.
 
Any case of plagiarism must be reported by the professor to the Dean of Students. The Dean keeps a record of all cases of plagiarism, and if a student plagiarizes repeatedly, the Dean will take additional actions and impose additional penalties. The maximum penalty is expelling the student from the college.
 
Refer to the "Academic Policies" portion of the Academic Catalog for more information on plagiarism and academic dishonesty.
(Adapted from Hope College Plagiarism web page: www.hope.edu/lib/plagiarism/penalties.html)
 
Avoiding It
The writing handbook used in the Inquiry and Expression course, A Writer's Reference, 5th edition, by Diana Hacker has good material on avoiding plagiarism on pages 318-320.
You can also find useful information and exercises about avoiding plagiarism on the website that accompanies the book at http://www.dianahacker.com/writersref.
(Adapted from Hope College Plagiarism web page: www.hope.edu/lib/plagiarism/avoiding.html)
 
Frequently Asked Questions about Plagiarism
Why is plagiarism such a big deal? You'd think that authors would want us to use their ideas. It's not as if we're taking credit for them-we're just harmless college students.
When you turn in someone else's work as your own, you are indeed taking credit for ideas that aren't yours, even if you aren't publishing those ideas. When you plagiarize, you also undermine your own learning experience. And you compromise your personal integrity.
 
Plagiarism is a big deal not only because of the ethical implications, but also because it is on the rise in the United States. With so many students plagiarizing, it becomes increasingly important to think about why we come to college.
 
How do you know if you're plagiarizing?
You are plagiarizing if you:
  • cut-and-paste without acknowledging your source
  • borrow an idea without acknowledging your source
  • turn in a paper purchased online or written by a friend
  • turn in a paper that you have already received credit for in another class
 
Is using a past paper from a different class considered plagiarism? If so, why? Why can't you just copy off yourself?
Your learning experience should be moving forward from semester to semester. If you turn in the same paper twice, you're not moving forward. On the other hand, you can always learn from previous presentations and assignments. There's nothing wrong with re-reading an earlier paper in order to freshen and invigorate your thinking.
 
What's the difference between summarizing and plagiarizing an article? Is there a certain point when summarizing turns into plagiarizing?
To summarize accurately and concisely is an important skill in research writing. For a good explanation of the differences between summary and plagiarism, download the Library's handout (pdf).
 
Why aren't famous lines from films or poems cited when used in a play or some other text? It seems that when it's an "allusion," it's okay to plagiarize. What's the difference between making an allusion and plagiarizing?
Plagiarism seeks to conceal the source, while allusion seeks to reveal it. In creative writing (poetry, fiction, drama, memoir), you may indeed include allusions. These are references to other texts that extend your meaning. But in academic writing (essays, research, argumentation, lab reports), you must document all of your sources. One of the goals of academic writing is to show that your research is part of a larger conversation. Proper documentation will help you achieve this goal, since it places your work into the context of this larger conversation.
 
How does a professor find plagiarism? Do professors check the sources?
Aquinas professors read student work very carefully. Consequently, professors notice telltale shifts and irregularities-an abrupt change in vocabulary, style, or syntax; a reference to ideas that seem contextually surprising; a paper that seems slightly off-topic.
 
Aquinas professors check sources in a variety of ways. Some professors ask students to turn in copies of sources. Some collaborate with research librarians. Many professors keep abreast of the "study guides" marketed to students. Finally, professors make judicious use of search engines and other electronic tools.
 
Is it plagiarism when public speakers deliver speeches that have been written by someone else?
No. Usually public speaking involves a team effort, a collaboration of skills, and a delegation of responsibility. The public knows and respects this. The public speaker does not seek to disguise such collaboration, but the plagiarist deliberately seeks to disguise his or her dishonesty.
 
How long does a string of words have to be to be plagiarism?
Don't worry about this question. Instead, ask this one: Have I acknowledged all my sources with fair and accurate documentation? Here's a good rule of thumb. If a source has changed the way you think about something, or if you like a phrase well enough to include it in your own work, document it.
 
How do other colleges and universities handle plagiarism? Is Aquinas's policy consistent with what is typical at other schools?
Yes, it is.
 
Why is plagiarism such a serious offense on a college campus and not in high schools?
It should be.
(Adapted from Hope College Plagiarism web page: www.hope.edu/lib/plagiarism/faq.html)
 
Student Resources
 
Aquinas College Campus Integrty Website
>>Additional Student Information
 
Faculty Resources
General Issues
  • Discuss the issue with your class
  • Explain clearly what plagiarism is
  • Make it clear that you know about the existence of purchase sites and ways to trace plagiarism
  • Explain to students that most of these papers are mediocre at best
 
Aquinas College Campus Integrty Website
>>Additional Faculty Information
 
AQ Campus Integrity Tutorials
 
Plagiarism Detection Sites
  • Plagiarism Resource Center at the University of Virginia: Download free software to detect plagiarism and links to other sites about plagiarism.
  • Turnitin: Uses two simultaneous scanning techniques to look for uncited information in any submitted document and trace it back to its original Internet location. Also compares submitted document to its database of papers students and professors have sent in (users must pay for this service). Turnitin used to be Plagiarism.org, which is now an informational site for anyone interested in learning more about the growing problem of Internet plagiarism. For help using Turnitin, click here.
 
Cyberplagiarism Bibliography