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Plagiarism: FAQs

What is plagiarism?

  • "Plagiarism is presenting another person's ideas, information, expressions, or entire work as one's own. . . . Plagiarism can take a number of forms, including buying papers from a service on the Internet, reusing work done by another student, and copying text from published sources without giving credit to those who published the sources. . . . Even borrowing just a few words from an author without clearly indicating that you did so constitutes plagiarism. Moreover, you can plagiarize unintentionally; in hastily taken notes, it is easy to mistake a phrase copied from a source as your original thought and then to use it without crediting the source. . . . It's important to note that you need not copy an author's words to be guilty of plagiarism; if you paraphrase someone's ideas or arguments without giving credit for their origin, you have committed plagiarism" (MLA 6-9).

MLA Handbook. 8th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2016

  • "There are other acts of academic dishonesty that closely resemble plagiarism. Submitting the same paper in two courses means you are passing off work done in one course as work done in another course. Usually, dual submissions require the permission of both instructors" (Storey 51).

Storey, William Kelleher. Writing History: A Guide for Students. 5th ed., Oxford UP, 2016

Is documentation of sources required to avoid plagiarism?

"Documentation is not required for every type of borrowed material. Information and ideas that are common knowledge among your readers need not be documented. Common knowledge includes information widely available in reference works, such as basic biographical facts about prominent persons and the dates and circumstances of major historical events. When the facts are in dispute, however, or when your readers may want more information about your topic, it is good practice to document the material you borrow" (MLA 10).

MLA Handbook. 8th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2016

How not to be a plagiarist?

  • Use quotation marks or block indents to indicate when you quote another person's words.
  • Your paraphrases should not closely resemble the sentences you are paraphrasing. See six steps to effective paraphrasing.
  • Cite the source you are quoting or paraphrasing.
  • For further information please see these books or ask a librarian.

How can you make sure that you are paraphrasing and not plagiarizing?

"First of all, a paraphrase is generally much shorter than the original. But there are cases in which the author of a sentence or fairly short paragraph says very juicy things. In this case, your paraphrase should be very long, probably longer than the original passage. . . . The most reassuring test of your paraphrases will come when you are able to paraphrase the text without looking at it. This will mean not only that you have avoided plagiarism, but also that you have understood the text you are paraphrasing" (Eco 165).

Eco, Umberto. How to Write a Thesis. MIT P, 2015

What is the penalty for plagiarism?

  • Plagiarists sometimes lose their jobs.
  • Plagiarists at Coast Mountain College may be placed on academic probation. Failure to complete the terms of academic probation may result in denial of enrolment in a course or program (Academic 3-4).

Academic Integrity & Appeals. Coast Mountain College, 2019

How common is plagiarism?

  • In a 2002-2003 survey of Canadian undergraduate students, 37% reported plagiarizing at least once during the past year (Christensen Hughes and McCabe).

Christensen Hughes, Julia M., and Donald L. McCabe. "Academic Misconduct within Higher Education in Canada." Canadian Journal of Higher Education, vol. 36, no. 2, 2006, pp. 1-21

  • In a 2011 survey of Canadian undergraduate students, 30% reported plagiarizing at least once since starting university (Jurdi et al.).

Jurdi, Rozzet, et al. "Academic Dishonesty in the Canadian Classroom: Behaviours of a Sample of University Students." Canadian Journal of Higher Education, vol. 41, no. 3, 2011, pp. 1-35

What is the difference between copyright infringement and plagiarism?

Copyright is protected by the Copyright Act. Copying is illegal unless it is permitted by sections 29 and 30 of the Copyright Act. There is no law against plagiarism. However, "plagiarism violates ethical standards in scholarship" (Publication 254). Perhaps worst of all "plagiarists are seen not only as dishonest but also as incompetent, incapable of doing research and expressing original thoughts" (MLA 7).

A plagiarist may also be a copyright infringer if the copying is not permitted by the Copyright Act.

MLA Handbook. 8th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2016

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. 7th ed., American Psychological Association, 2020