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Plagiarism Basics

What is Plagiarism?


Plagiarism is defined as, "the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work" (from Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 2nd. Ed. (1993)).

Plagiarism is more than copying work.  It can include improper paraphrasing, not correctly citing the work of others, or reusing the work done for one class or project in a different one.  Plagiarism can occur in a school or university, and also on a job or in professional settings.  See this guide for more about plagiarism, why it matters, and what you can do to minimize it.

Image credit: K. Padron, 2021.

More on Plagiarism

FAU Libraries (2011).  Introduction to plagiarism (Part I) [YouTube video]. 

Padron, K. (2017).  Plagiarism [Slides].

Why Does Plagiarism Matter?

Student studying at PCYour professors are busy with discovering and creating new knowledge in their disciplines.  They do this by becoming knowledgeable in their subject, and then either create new work like books, articles, or creative works or undertake focused studies or research.  Their results contribute new creations or information for their subject's body of knowledge, and then is shared with the public and others in their profession.

Attribution & Transparency:  Cite It!

Your professors are expected to show their sources of information used in their work, and also show how they did it in order for their work to be considered trustworthy.  They have to cite their work, known as attribution.  Attribution identifies an idea's original source which allows readers to see and read it.  This helps with transparency:  interested readers can see where your professor got his or her ideas, and also how they did their work.  Attribution also gives credit and recognition to the original authors or creators used. 

Assignment Requirements & Communication

In college assignments, most professors want you to document your sources of information so you can identify and give credit to the person who had the original idea.  It also helps show how you got your ideas and came to your own conclusions.  Attribution or showing your work also prepares you to learn the conventions of communicating your ideas and work in academic or other professional settings.  Whether you become a journalist, electrical engineer, or English teacher, you will frequently build your ideas on the work of others and write to communicate.

Academic Honesty & Ethical Behavior

The problem with plagiarism is a person does not receive credit or recognition for his or her ideas.  Do you want someone to take your work and claim it is theirs?  What if you spent hours working on an assignment only for someone to copy it and earn the same grade as you?  You were the one who did the hard work, so was that fair?  No, it wasn't!

The bigger deal about plagiarism is that it is unethical!  Plagiarism is like cheating, or stealing ideas and the work of others.  Ethical behavior is a foundation in academic and professional settings, and it is based on norms of mutual trust, personal integrity, honesty, and individual responsibility.  Unethical behavior can also be harmful to you and others. 

Image Credit:  Student studying at computer, by LinkedIn Sales Manager.  Permission by CC0

Original Content Statement

Revisions by Kristy Padron, MLIS (2017, 2021)
Original content by Rachael Neu, MLS (2014) 

Last updated on Oct 7, 2021 12:42 PM