What is Plagiarism?

Let's begin by exploring what plagiarism is and the different kinds of it.

A Video Tutorial


This tutorial video was created by Sea Devil TV, of Cape Fear Community College.

Types of Plagiarism

When most people think about plagiarism, they're thinking about cut-and-paste plagiarism. Put simply,cut-and-paste plagiarism occurs when a student copies another author's exact wording without citing the original source. You probably know that copying a Wikipedia article and turning it in to your professor is a bad idea; that sort of word-for-word cheating is obviously wrong, and it is extremely easy for your professors to catch. Consider this real-life example from a plagiarized student paper on the ethical theory of utilitarianism (original spelling and grammar left intact):

One problem is that Utilitarism believe that all ppl are created equally men, women, and children and strangers. The problem with this notion is that it makes us calculate human live on the scale of numbers were 1=1 and were 10 is better than one. Were as if I was give the choice between saving my daughters life or saving hundred others. I will not hesitate to choose my daughter life. This necessary connection implies that the conclusion of felicific calculus depends, for each individual, on a continuous interaction between feelings, ideas, and sentiments. But this interaction is also a source of permanent transformations of the individual, of renewed receptivity to the different events which originate these major feelings of pleasure and pain. Also they utilitarians theory do not give us the time to weight the consequences of our action. So a problem is there to.

Did you catch it? If not, read this passage again and ask yourself if there is any change in the grammar and voice. To a grader, it's clear that the student has copied someone else's work word-for word.

Word-for-word plagiarism may be the most obvious, but it isn't the only kind of plagiarism. Plagiarism can occur in a variety of ways that you may have never even considered-

  • Believe it or not, buying a term paper online or from an individual is a form of plagiarism.
  • Having a friend write a paper for you is plagiarism.
  • Paraphrasing or summarizing an author without citation can be a form of plagiarism.
  • Even if you provide a list of references at the end of your paper, you may be plagiarizing if you fail to follow correct citation guidelines.

Each of these represents a serious breach of conduct and could result in anything from failing the assignment to expulsion from the university. Please explore the videos and examples in this plagiarism guide to learn more about what plagiarism is and how you can avoid it.