The Definition of Plagiarize

: to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own : use (another’s production) without crediting the source     

                                           from Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary

Plagiarism is a serious intellectual offense. However, if you are aware of what constitutes plagiarism, and strive to avoid it, there is nothing to be worried about.

Here are four common types of plagiarism:

Direct Plagiarism

Direct plagiarism occurs when a student copies the work of another author verbatim without citing the source and without using quotation marks. Think “Cut-and-Paste”.

from Bowdoin College: An Example of Direct Plagiarism

Self Plagiarism

Self-plagiarism occurs when a student “Recycles” material from another one of his or her own papers without citing that paper as a source.

Mosaic Plagiarism

Mosaic plagiarism occurs when a student “Cherry-picks” words, phrases or more general concepts from another source, then finds synonyms or changes the wording slightly, without acknowledging the source.

from Bowdoin College: An Example of Mosaic Plagiarism

Accidental Plagiarism

Accidental plagiarism occurs when a student forgets or neglects to properly cite his sources. Not knowing what constitutes plagiarism, making errors in attribution, or simply forgetting still results in an offense.

Ask Yourself:

  1. Did I know this information without having to look it up? 
  2. Are there data or images I did not produce? 
  3. Is this an idea that is not my own? 

When in doubt, cite it

General Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism

Read the Source in its Entirety 

  • It’s easy to take something out of context if you only read a portion of it! If you read the entire source, you should have a better understanding of the author’s meaning.
Take Detailed Notes as you Read
  • Anytime you note something word-for-word, immediately place it in quotation marks. Also note what page or section you found it on.
  • On each page, make sure you note the original source and the date you accessed the source. This will make citation much easier, especially if you are working with multiple sources or doing research over a long stretch of time.
  • Try not to mix your own thoughts and commentary with excerpts from your source. Keep them on separate pages, draw two columns on your page, or switch your pen color.
  • If you find it difficult to take notes with electronic sources – or if you find yourself drawn to the copy-paste method – print out your sources and deal with them in print form.
Consult with the Experts
  • If you need a second opinion, ask!  Ask a librarian, the Writing Center, or your professor.