Regardless of what University you may attend, the consensus is the same across the board: plagiarism is a serious offence. The policies for handling a breach of student honour code by plagiarism will differ by case and also by University. At the very least, the punishment for plagiarism will typically result in a failed grade on the assignment or examination. Certain university programs will turn the offending student over to a disciplinary review board. In the case of the University of Cambridge, students charged with plagiarism will be turned over to the University Court of Discipline. In this situation, the University Court has “wide powers against students found guilty of plagiarism,” including ejecting such a student from the University.
Understanding the consequences of plagiarism is an important first step in learning how to avoid committing this serious fault of academic conduct. Having a clear comprehension of what constitutes plagiarism is imperative as well. Plagiarism is defined in the Educational Policy and Standards at University of Oxford as, “the copying or paraphrasing of other people’s work or ideas into your own work without full acknowledgement. All published and unpublished material, whether in manuscript, printed or electronic form is covered under this definition. Collusion is another form of plagiarism involving the unauthorised collaboration of students (or others) in a piece of work.” In order to not plagiarise, one must properly cite any sources that were referenced in compiling the assignment or examination, properly indicate any direct quotation of another person’s work, properly cite any ideas or arguments that were taken from another work, and to cite any person aiding in the completion of the assignment.
Plagiarism can wear many different hats, and it is critical to understand that plagiarism is not just the direct copying of another person’s work. As already mentioned, copying someone’s work word-for-word without applying quotation marks as well as citing the source is the first main kind of plagiarism. Additionally, using another’s general argument to compile your assignment is a form of plagiarism. Without citing the source, it gives the reader the impression that the work is your own original argument. It is important to make sure the assignments you will complete are completely in your own vocabulary, even if it may sound better when expressed by someone with more advanced skill.
It is also crucial to cite all sources properly. Today, the Internet is a valuable resource for information. However, even though the information that is available is free, it is still plagiarism to redistribute as your own original work. One must not copy and paste text found on the Internet, and one must include the necessary citations to indicate where the information was obtained. As already mentioned, it is necessary to acknowledge any outside help received in preparing your assignment. Examples of this could be writing fellows, other students, and any other outside sources that assist in formulating the arguments or ideas contained in the assignment. Lastly, it is considered plagiarism if one submits an assignment that was previously submitted for another course. A good guideline to follow to avoid plagiarism is to guarantee that all work is original, and not a duplicate of any other work, be it yours, or someone else’s.
Plagiarism is a serious offence that can result in losing membership to your University. It is not only unfair to the other students to breach academic code in this way, but it is unfair to you, and your education. If it comes down to poor time management, or the assignment being challenging, the risk is too great to make plagiarising in any way worth it. Here are some ideas for avoiding the trap of plagiarism:
• Giving oneself adequate time to research the assignment and compose it in your own words.
• Discussing paper/assignment ideas with your professor ahead of time.
• Consulting knowledgeable sources to ensure the proper citation of sources.
• Proofreading several times to be sure that the thoughts and ideas included in the assignment are in your words, not in the words of a thesaurus or the source that you consulted.
• Turning to your professors for help rather than a fellow student. It will be easier to separate the ideas that you have from your professors as compared to a peer with similar knowledge on the subject.
University of Oxford, Educational Policy & Standards. http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/epsc/plagiarism/index.shtml
University of Cambridge, Good Academic Practice and Plagiarism. http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/univ/plagiarism/
Georgetown University, Gervase Program for Honor Council, What is Plagiarism?. http://gervaseprograms.georgetown.edu/honor/system/53377.html