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Academic Honesty and Avoiding Plagiarism


Plagiarism, n. 1. The action or practice of taking someone else's work, idea, etc., and passing it off as one's own; literary theft. (Oxford English Dictionary) ...

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You're helping a classmate on an assignment only to find they simply copied your work.

"Hey! That's my work!"

Of course you're mad. Your classmate committed unique combination of theft and lying. It's called plagiarism. 

Yet these roles could reverse. It is easier commit then you'd imagine so let's learn more.

The New Oxford American Dictionary says plagiarism is "the practice to taking someone else's work or ideas and passing
them off as your own."

This can be...

  • Copying material word-for-word without use of quotation marks...
  • Copying ideas without giving credit, even if you rewrite the ideas in your own words...
  • Improperly or failing to document where you find your information...
  • Claiming someone else's assignment work as your own or even letting someone else to do your work for you.

Disciplinary action for plagiarism can range from assignment grade penalties to
expulsion from Montgomery County Community College.

But here are some ways to avoid plagiarism!

First, give credit where credit is due.

This is called citation. Follow MLA or APA standards as noted by your instructor and cite where you get your information for your assignment both as you present your ideas in your paper and at the end in your bibliography.

Use quotation marks. An author can have a fabulous way of explaining an idea and this can be great for your paper...Put the words in quotes.

Again credit the author and where the information can be found with proper citations.

Put it in your own words. This is called paraphrasing.

Read your source carefully then close the book and write the ideas in your own words, but remember to cite the source or idea.

If you paraphrase someone else's idea, try starting or ending your sentence with the phrase such as "according to" 

Help is available! For more information about plagiarism and how to cite your work, visit the college libraries Help Zone pages. 

If ever in doubt please ask! Your professors and librarians are here to help you succeed in your studies!

Here are three examples of plagiarism taken straight from the news ...

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.)