What is Plagiarism?
Simply put, plagiarism is taking credit for someone else's ideas or work.
While most people know not to simply copy and paste an entire essay, which is the most egregious form of plagiarism, there are many other types of plagiarism. This page will explain why it is so important to properly attribute and cite your sources, and what resources are available to help you avoid plagiarizing.
Can words and ideas actually be stolen?
U.S. law tells us that words and ideas can be stolen. The expression of original ideas is considered intellectual property and is protected by copyright laws, just like original inventions. Almost all forms of expression fall under copyright protection as long as they are recorded in some way (such as a book or a computer file). Learn more about copyright (and exceptions) here.
All of the following are considered plagiarism:
Using an image, video or piece of music in a work you have produced without receiving proper permission or providing appropriate citation is plagiarism. The following activities are very common in today’s society. Despite their popularity, they still count as plagiarism.
Copying media (especially images) from other websites to paste them into your own papers or websites.
Making a video using footage from others’ videos or using copyrighted music as part of the soundtrack.
Performing another person’s copyrighted music (i.e., playing a cover).
Composing a piece of music that borrows heavily from another composition.
The legality of these situations, and others, would be dependent upon the intent and context within which they are produced. The two safest approaches to take in regards to these situations is: 1) Avoid them altogether or 2) Confirm the works’ usage permissions and cite them properly.
Most cases of plagiarism can be avoided, however, by using the following techniques.
If you use the techniques above, simply acknowledging that certain material has been borrowed and providing your audience with the information necessary to find that source is usually enough to prevent plagiarism. See our section on APA, MLA and CSE citations for more information on how to cite sources properly.
There are a number of reasons why you should cite your sources. Here are a few of the things citing helps you do:
1) Citing your sources helps show all the hard work you have put into locating credible sources.
2) Citing your sources will help readers understand the context of your argument, and can help support your argument.
3) Citations allow you to recognize the authors that contributed to your learning.
4) Citing your sources will allow others to find the information you found; this can allow readers to learn more about your topic.
5) Citing your sources is the ethical thing to do! Citing demonstrates that you are building from and contributing to the scholarly conversation.
You should cite the following information:
You don't need to cite:
ProTip: If you aren't sure whether or not you should cite something, you should cite it! If your instructor doesn't think the citation is necessary, he/she will let you know.
Explore the following sites to find out more about what plagiarism is and how to avoid it!