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Understanding Plagiarism: Home


The definition of plagiarize, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is:
  • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own
  • to commit literary theft: present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source

To plagiarize, essentially, is to steal someone else's intellectual property. Intellectual property is the product of someone's original creative work, regardless of format. It is natural that knowledge builds upon itself, so it is expected that scholars will use the work of others as a basis for their own creative expansion. It is vital, however, that credit be given to the creators of the intellectual property on which you will build.

Many current students, who have come of age in a world in which information is so freely published and spread, find themselves at a loss as to what constitutes plagiarism. This LibGuide will attempt to clarify any discrepancies between students' understanding of plagiarism, or lack thereof, and the expectations of honesty in an academic environment.


Any or all of the following would be considered plagiarism:

  • Direct quotation without citation
  • Unacknowledged use of key phrases
  • Adapting passages from the work of another without change to basic sentence structure
  • Purchasing or borrowing a paper and turning it in as one's own work
  • Letting someone else write your paper for you

If a distinct idea expressed is not your own, and is not considered common knowledge, you must consider that idea another scholar's intellectual property and give them proper credit for their work.

Common knowledge is factual information that can be found in many sources and is likely to be known by many or most people.


In an academic setting, the repercussions of plagarism may range from a failing grade for the assignment in question, to a failing grade for the course, to explusion from your college or university.

An act of plagarism in your professional career might mean termination from your job or even a permanent loss of credibility within your field.

Plagiarism detection programs like Turnitin have made instances of plagiarism increasingly simple to detect, as has the ability to google phrases and paragraphs. 

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