According to The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, plagiarism is rampant on college campuses. Despite the prevalence of this practice, students should never underestimate the severity of its potential consequences. Plagiarism is a serious academic offense that violates academic integrity and demonstrates disrespect for the scholarly community. It can damage your college career, tarnish your reputation and even undermine career opportunities.

Definition

Plagiarism damages academic trust.
Plagiarism damages academic trust.

Plagiarism represents the theft of intellectual property. It comes in many forms. The most common type, verbatim plagiarism or "cloning," refers to copying another author's exact words. Paraphrasing that is overly derivative of the original source in style, content or form can also constitute a form of plagiarism. Internet plagiarism involves cutting and pasting Web content and passing it off as your original material. Failure to properly credit use of another author's words or thoughts is the link between the various forms of plagiarism.

Meeting with the Professor

With the introduction of online anti-plagiarism tools, detection has become relatively easy for professors. If you are caught, the first step will likely be a meeting with the professor during which you will be given an opportunity to explain your side of the situation. Remain calm and express your contrition for your mistake. Explain how the situation happened and relay your intention to meticulously cite sources in future. If the professor believes that the plagiarism was unintentional, he may handle the situation personally. At the very least, expect a significant grade deduction on the assignment.

University Discipline

If the professor refers the case for further action, you may be called before the college honor council, which will hear testimony and recommend disciplinary consequences. Penalties might include loss of academic scholarships, failure to receive credit for the course or outright expulsion. In 2012, more than 125 Harvard undergraduates were investigated for plagiarism on a government course exam. Approximately half of the accused students eventually received mandatory two-semester suspensions from the college.

Citing sources

Plagiarism can have far-reaching consequences that extend beyond your college years. In 2007, Ohio University revoked the master's degree of a former engineering student when plagiarism was discovered in his thesis. At Amherst in 2012, an assistant professor resigned when a tenure committee found evidence of plagiarism in her doctoral dissertation and other works. Despite the grave consequences of plagiarism, most cases can be avoided by learning to properly and consistently attribute sources.