Q&A: What Is Plagiarism?

Answer: This is a great question. Merriam-Webster defines plagiarism as "to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own: use (another's production) without crediting the source" (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/plagiarize).

In school, this means not copying and pasting someone else's ideas and words into your own assignment. This may seem simple to understand or an easy rule to follow. However, many students do not understand or take plagiarism seriously. Depending on the school and its policy, this could result in a first time warning, a lower grade, no credit or academic discipline.

Accredited schools have a plagiarism policy (accreditation refers to approval by a governing body that oversees the educational standards and procedures of academic institutions). There are multiple ways to monitor or track student assignments and submissions. However, the software and/or programs used and follow-up procedures differ from school to school.

Most schools have students submit their papers and assignments through a specific program. Some tools allow students to directly submit their work and instructors to review the submissions. Others are designed for students to submit their own work (before submitting to the instructor), to verify their materials are original. You can view the following websites to have a better understanding of the types of programs available:

  1. Turnitin
  2. SafeAssign
  3. Dupli Checker

Students must adhere to their school's plagiarism policy. Most students desire to be respected for their work and want to earn their grades fairly. As stated before, plagiarizing can result in a mild or severe disciplinary action -- in some cases, possible expulsion from school, depending on the policy.

The best way to avoid this situation is to make sure you aren't using another student's information or copying and pasting from a textbook, article, website or any other resource. Your information must be in your own words. Quoting must be done correctly with a citation and reference to give credit to the source.

To avoid plagiarism and have a better understanding of the student's responsibilities when it comes to plagiarism, visit Plagiarism.org/.

Dr. Beverley BrowningDr. Beverly A. Browning (Dr. Bev) has been a higher education adjunct faculty member for over 25 years. She has taught in the classroom and online for multiple colleges and universities including Spring Arbor College, Baker College of Flint, Mott Community College, and Rio Salado College. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, Spring Arbor College and Mott Community College. She is currently an online instructor for ed2go.com (Cengage Learning). In addition to founding and directing the Grant Writing Training Foundation, Dr. Bev is also Vice President of Grants Professional Services for eCivis, Inc. She is the author over over 37 grant-related publications and a frequent keynote speaker and workshop presenter for national and regional conferences. Dr. Bev is a product of lifelong learning and an advocate for online teaching and learning!