Skip to Main Content

Academic Honesty and Avoiding Plagiarism

Finding Your Authentic Self - A Story of Academic Honesty and Avoiding Plagiarism

student in the library stacks

Finding Your Authentic Self - A Story of Academic Honesty and Avoiding Plagiarism

MLA Paper, Copied

The Scenario

Here's a scenario: You showed a classmate an essay response that you wrote for a class that they missed.

You find out later that they didn’t just use if for inspiration, but copied it exactly. And submitted it.

sample grade book

This could get you in trouble in your class, but more than that, it’s also extremely unfair. You did the work. They didn’t. Why should they expect to get the same amount of credit?

plagiarism definition and mindmap

What they did is called plagiarism. It's the act of appropriating someone else's work and lying about it in the process.

original text and copy side by side

In the scenario, the classmate copied your work word for word, without giving you the credit. It’s as if they crossed out your name at the top and wrote in their own.

Clearly not the intent of the assignment, and it certainly didn’t help them hone their critical thinking skills.

Suppose the classmate took your essay, and then reworded it so it wasn’t exactly the same as the original. Is that better?

minor modification to original PLAGIARISM

No! If they didn’t give credit to their source - you - then they are still stealing your work and lying about it.

Plagiarism - different order and chatbot use

Is it better if they changed the order of the words and attributed it to someone else, like an expert in the field? Absolutely not, that's plagiarism.

What if they fed it into a generative AI program, and had it generate an essay response? That's plagiarism, too.

Plagiarism - doing the work for someone else.

And finally, what if you chose to help them out, writing a fresh essay response that you are willing to let them hand in as their own?

Argh, that’s the worst one yet! Doing someone else’s work for them, regardless of the reason, is still plagiarism, and both of you stand to face consequences.

sad student reading policy Student Academic Code of Ethics

The Consequences

What are the consequences? The Student Academic Code of Ethics describes the penalties for plagiarism. Receiving a failing grade on the assignment is among the mildest outcomes. It can also result in failing the course, academic integrity flags going on a student’s record, or even expulsion from the college.

a happy student reading the ethics policy

How you can avoid a charge of plagiarism

Before it lists the consequences, the Student Academic Code of Ethics models ethical student behavior. It shows appreciation for the student who does quality work on their own, while being upfront about how they employed other sources to support their project.

MLA and APA style citation


Giving credit to your sources is known as citation.

The citation styles that are used most often at the College are MLA and APA style.

APA style references Altiplano

When you find a useful source, start by looking for the full citation, and add it to your lists of Works Cited (MLA) or References (APA).

in-text citation APA example

In-text citation

Then, when you are ready to incorporate ideas from a source into the body of your project, you can employ an in-text citation.

An in-text citation is a shortened form of the full citation that lets your audience know which of your sources you are using in that moment.

signal phrase examples

Signal phrase

Phrases like “According to [author]…” or “[author] said…” are some of the signal phrases that writers use to share information from their sources.

in-text citation block quote example

Direct Quote

If you are using the author's exact words, you need to use quotation marks along with your in-text citation.

For a large amount of text (four lines or more when typed out) you can use a block quote.

Source is paraphrased and cited


If you can rephrase it in your own words and still get the point across, just the in-text citation will do.

To meaningfully rephrase another idea and still give credit is an important communication skill known as paraphrasing. If done well, it demonstrates that you understand the topic, and are not simply “parroting” the thoughts of others.

smiling student in the library

Because ultimately, that’s what avoiding plagiarism is all about. While we all learn from others, what people most want to see in anything that you create is your authentic self.

Examples of Plagiarism in the News

Here are three examples of plagiarism taken straight from the news, uncovered in three very different sectors ...

Example #1: History

historic photo of women marching for voting rights

History professor uses text from other history books word for word without citing

New York Times article: Two Accuse Stephen Ambrose, Popular Historian, of Plagiarism.

(Image: VCU CNS. “19_amendment.” 12 Feb. 2015. from Flickr)

Example #2: Engineering

circuit board

Engineering professor and Ph.D. candidate submit journal article that was heavily plagiarized

Top Canadian scientist and award-winning student caught in 'blatant plagiarism' of text. Article from The National Post, a national Canadian newspaper.

(Image: By © Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons), CC BY-SA 4.0,

Example #3: Journalism

Tips to avoid plagiarism

All three of these plagiarism cases could have been avoided if the authors correctly cited their sources. You can avoid plagiarism in your own work by:

  1. Understanding when to cite.
  2. Understanding how to properly paraphrase and when to directly quote your sources.
  3. Documenting your citation information DURING the research process.
  4. Using a consistent citation style.

(Image: Duffy, Brooke. “Don’t be that guy: Don't Plagiarize meme.” Fairfield University Archives, 12 Aug. 2015.)