Plagiarism & Academic Dishonesty

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Plagiarism & Academic Dishonesty

Plagiarism is when you present someone else's thoughts or ideas as your own without giving them credit. On the extreme side, plagiarism is paying someone on the Internet to write essays for you. Less extreme is accidental plagiarism, such as forgetting to include a source on your citation page. Both of these examples can have serious consequences in high school, and in college can get you expelled.

The MLA Style Center has devoted an entire section on their website to plagiarism and academic dishonesty. Explaining why plagiarism is such a serious ethical issue, they say:

Schools consider plagiarism a grave matter ... If a student fails to give credit for the work of others in one project, how can a teacher trust any of the student’s work? Plagiarism undermines the relationship between teachers and students, turning teachers into detectives instead of mentors, fostering suspicion instead of trust, and making it difficult for learning to take place. Students who plagiarize deprive themselves of the knowledge they would have gained if they had done their own writing. 

The easiest way to avoid plagiarism is to cite (with in text citations and in the works cited page) whenever you borrow a quotation or even paraphrase ideas from other people. 

The MLA Style Center has this example explaining how easy it is to plagiarize:

Imagine, for example, that you read the following passage in the course of your research (from Michael Agar’s book Language Shock):

Everyone uses the word language and everybody these days talks about culture. . . . “Languaculture” is a reminder, I hope, of the necessary connection between its two parts. . . .

If you wrote the following sentence, it would constitute plagiarism:

At the intersection of language and culture lies a concept that we might call “languaculture.”

This sentence borrows a word from Agar’s work without giving credit for it. Placing the term in quotation marks is insufficient. If you use the term, you must give credit to its source:

At the intersection of language and culture lies a concept that Michael Agar has called “languaculture” (60).

If you're writing an essay, it might be helpful to open a second document listing all the sources you used so that later you can go back and turn all those sources into a works cited page. 

Highlight your essay every time you quote or paraphrase another person so that you know exactly where to place your in text citations. 

It's important to develop a system that works for you so that eventually, correctly citing your sources becomes second nature. 

For detailed explanations and examples on creating in text citations and a works cited page, visit Purdue OWL and the MLA Style Center.