Plagiarism, much more than a copy and paste.

Plagiarism, in the simplest of terms, is the use of someone else’s words as your own. Although this is true, plagiarism is much more than a copy and paste.  Plagiarism is a complex problem that can carry very serious consequences if committed. It is imperative that students and writers of all disciplines understand plagiarism and how to avoid it. The term academic integrity is often associated with plagiarism. Although both can have detrimental ramifications, these two terms are not synonymous. This essay will clarify the definitions of plagiarism and academic integrity. Differentiate between the different types of plagiarism, examine the penalties when committed at Michigan State University and explain why adherence to academic honesty is so important.  

Plagiarism is the use, publication and/or presentation of another’s verbal or literary words as your own. Plagiarism is not limited to text or words. The rules of plagiarism include websites, illustrations, tables, graphs, and figures. To clarify, there is a specific protocol when a writer wishes to use a piece of work as a reference. The work must be delineated and the author needs to properly identify and cite as a resource. The correct process to delineate is to use quote marks or altered left/right margination of your text or altered font for copied text or a copied idea from any source (e.g., published paper, webpage, class notes) that appears in your text (Cobbett, 2016).

There are three types of plagiarism. Intentional or blatant, occurs when a writer makes the conscious decision to copy or use another’s work as their own. In contrast, unintentional plagiarism occurs when a writer unknowingly uses another’s work. Unintentional, often is the result of incorrect paraphrasing, erroneous delineation or omitted citation techniques. The use of a table from a textbook without properly citing the source is an example of unintentional plagiarism. Self-plagiarism is the third type of plagiarism. This can occur when a writer reuses an earlier work, presenting it as new material without proper delineation and citation (American Psychological Association, 2010). A student would be guilty of self-plagiarism if he presented an old paper as his new assignment.

MSU defines academic integrity as “honest and responsible scholarship” (Office of the University Ombudsman, n.d.). Academic Integrity is further described as presenting original work, completing assignments independently and taking exams without the assistance of others. Upholding academic integrity also means not providing other students with knowledge of assignments, answers or exams. For example, a student using online resources to access answers while taking a quiz is an integrity violation.

Plagiarism and academic integrity violations are not tolerated and are serious offenses at MSU. Committing either of these acts, are direct violations of the Spartan Code and are considered fraud. A discipline hearing often reviews the accusations and determines punishment. Penalty grades, academic probation, loss of scholarship or even dismissal are enforceable punishments when a student is found guilty of misconduct (Office of the University Ombudsman, 2015). Outside academia, plagiarism offenses are just as harsh. Loss of employment, a tarnished reputation, and potential legal consequences can result when an ethical infraction is committed (Is Plagiarism Illegal, 2017).