Examples of Plagiarism in College

If in doubt, ask your professor how to cite a source.
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Plagiarism is a serious offense at any college or university, and if you think cheating doesn't occur at your school, think again. Users entered more than 5,000 searches per month of the phrase "how to cheat on a test" on a major Internet search engine, according to GetEducated, a website that offers information higher education institutions and educational issues. Plagiarism is a form of cheating involving the use of work that is not your own and representing it as original work you produced. Many colleges and universities use software programs to identify plagiarism in student papers. Copy and pasting, failing to cite sources and purchasing writing online are three common forms of academic theft.

Cite every reference you used to gather facts and information when you write a college-level paper. Use the proper citation style, such as a style from the American Psychological Association, Modern Language Association or the Associated Press. Your professor will tell you which citation style is appropriate for the project. Even if you only pull one fact from a source, include it on your reference page or works cited list. In the paper, cite any facts you pulled from that source. If you include a quote from an author in an English paper, MLA style requires you to end the sentence with a parenthetical citation including the author's last name -- if needed -- and the page number of the information. For example: "Dr. Jones states, 'The writings of Jack Price explore the themes of death and solitude' (263)."

Always paraphrase information you find in a source, unless it's important to directly quote the author. You'll know whether a quotation is necessary when you assess the type of information you are gathering. For example, it's OK to paraphrase if you're pulling facts and figures from a source. But, if you're quoting an interview answer from an expert, name the person and supply a direct quote. For example: "Dr. X Jones states in his interview with 'Time' magazine, 'Racial identity has become a more complex issue than our customary definitions and terms can accommodate. It is time to create new terms with which to discuss race." In this case, Jones' exact words are important to the context of the discussion.

Never copy and paste material from the Internet, even when you are compiling your research. The most common reason why students are caught plagiarizing is their use of the copy-and-paste functions on the computer. You may think it's harmless to paste paragraphs of research material into a document for later use, but it's too easy for you to mix up the pasted material with your own writing. You could end up accidentally turning in paragraphs of writing pulled straight from the Internet. Don't risk it, because most universities consider even accidental plagiarism a violation of the honor code.

  • Buying a paper online is a form of plagiarism, even if you technically "own" the document once you've purchased it. Plagiarism means turning in work that you did not create yourself. Purchasing a paper for class credit constitutes lying, and it will violate the honor code at any university.
  • If you ever have a question about plagiarism, go directly to the professor and ask. Don't take a risk and include something in the paper without citing it. You could risk being suspended, failing the class or even being expelled from the university.

Jan Archer holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a master's degree in creative writing. Roth has written trade books for Books-a-Million and has published articles on green living, wellness and education topics. She taught business writing, literature, creative writing and English composition at the college level for five years.