What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the act of taking another person's writing, conversation, song, or even idea and passing it off as your own. This includes information from web pages, books, songs, television shows, email messages, interviews, articles, artworks or any other medium. When you hear about famous scholars getting in trouble for plagiarism, it usually means they copied exact sentences or almost-exact sentences and phrases from someone else and did not include a footnote or quotation marks or any kind of indiciation that the words were not their own. In college, this is also the case, but there are other ways to commit plagiarism besides copying someone else's work.  It is also considered plagiarsm when students turn in papers that they obtained by purchase, hire or any other method outside of composing the work themselves. 

The main point is that when you incorporate anyone else's words or ideas into your own work, you simply need to give them credit and provide your audience with information on how to find the original source.  Whenever you paraphrase, summarize, or take words, phrases, or sentences from another person's work, it is necessary to indicate the source of the information within your paper, presentation, speech, etc. It is not enough to just list the source in a bibliography at the end of your paper. Failing to properly quote, cite or acknowledge someone else's words or ideas is plagiarism.

What if the Information is something everybody knows?

There are instances when credit is not necessary. If you include information that is generally considered common knowledge, you do not need to cite a source. The common knowledge exception usually includes things like dates, facts, names and other information easily found in general reference books. For example, the United States was founded in 1776, has 50 states, and sent astronauts to the moon in 1969. Common knowledge exceptions may also apply within a particular group and therefore depends on the expected audience of readers. When in doubt, go ahead and cite the information.

Is it possible to plagiarize yourself?

Yes! Copying and pasting or rewriting the same text from one of your paper’s to another is still considered plagiarism. You may quote or paraphrase yourself according to the same guidelines as using the work of another author.


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