Home   |   TOPIC LIST   |   About   |   Contact

The official definition

http://dictionary.reference.com/ has this definition for plagiarism:

noun: a piece of writing that has been copied from someone else and is presented as being your own work 2: the act of plagiarizing; taking someone's words or ideas as if they were your own

In most cases, when you copy parts of someone else’s work or even use research that others have done, you are required to give credit to the source of the work. So if you were to quote Shakespeare, for instance, you would need to indicate that you had taken the quote from something Shakespeare wrote. The exact way in which you would do this varies depending on who is grading your work - you have to find out the requirements of your particular school or teacher.

Plagiarism can occur in two distinct ways:

  • You can intentionally copy someone else’s work and not ‘give that other person credit’. In other words, you don’t indicate in your essay or article that part of what you wrote is directly or indirectly from someone else’s essay or article.

  • You can accidentally use someone else’s work when you are writing an essay or article or forget to give a person credit.

Copying someone else’s work and claiming it is your own may seem like an easy way to get a good mark without having to put much effort in, but in the long run you’ll regret it. Even if you think you can get away with it, it will, more than likely, eventually catch up with you and bite you in the butt. Students who plagiarise when writing essay assignments go into exams without the skills and abilities necessary to write essays of a similar standard. What’s worse, when the marker sees the big difference in quality between their assignment pieces and their exam work, there’s bound to be big trouble. It varies between schools, but usually the punishment for intentionally stealing (and yes, it is stealing, if you think about it) is harsh and can range from zero marks for the assignment to being kicked out of the school or university.

The big problem for most people though is not intentional plagiarism. It’s accidental plagiarism. Imagine you have an assignment due on the topic of gun control. You remember that recently in the newspaper there was an article on gun control that had some amazing statistic like, "60 % of all gun related deaths are from unlicensed guns". This is a great statement to back up your argument that there should be stricter gun-control laws, so you put it in your essay as one of the opening statements. A week later, you get the marked assignment back and notice with dismay that your mark of A- has been downgraded to a C-, and there in red handwriting on the front is: "Make sure you state all your references and sources". Two grades down the drain just because you accidentally forgot to cite (give) the source of the statistic. And only losing two grades makes you one of the lucky ones!

So there are two important things as a student that you need to be able to do:

  • Recognise all the situations where you might possibly be using other people’s work or words in your work.

  • Give the appropriate credit in the proper manner. This will depend on your teacher’s preferences. Some will allow any sort of referencing as long as you’re making an attempt to give credit, but others will insist on the correct format and syntax of one of the accepted reference styles.