Avoiding Plagiarism

What is plagiarism?

According to Trinity’s Academic Honor Code, plagiarism is defined as “the use of anyone else’s words or ideas without assigning proper credit to their original source.”

Is it possible to plagiarize, and subsequently be charged with plagiarizing, if one did not intend to cheat?

Yes.  When a source does not receive attribution, whether this was intentional or accidental, the result is the same.  The original work or information was not attributed to its author.  This means that by default, the individual using information that has not been attributed to a source will receive credit for creating that work or developing that information.  It is therefore necessary that both intentional and accidental situations of plagiarism be considered in the same manner.

Why do people plagiarize?

While reasons for plagiaristic activity can vary depending on the person or situation, the following situations are commonly associated with behaviors resulting in charges of plagiarism.  None of these would be considered an appropriate excuse for such activity.

  • Poor time management
  • Inadequate attention given to methods for citing sources (both within the text of the essay and in a list of references at the end of an essay)
  • Inadequate understanding of what materials should be cited
  • Inadequate understanding of the assignment
  • Underestimating the instructor’s/reader’s ability to locate information that has been cut from web sources and pasted into the text of an assigned essay
  • Underestimating the damage that is caused due to cheating, stealing, and lying

What are the benefits of acknowledging my sources?

Writers, researchers, students, and teachers must all give attribution to the sources they use as they develop projects and write essays and articles.  The long standing tradition of situating your own ideas among the ideas of others who have written and conducted research on your topic is as valuable an activity as conducting unique research, writing an enlightening new analysis, or positing a bold theory.

Offering attribution to your sources has a number of benefits:

  • It distinguishes your critical and insightful thinking from the thinking of others.
  • It indicates to the reader that you have completed an appropriate amount of research and that you can be considered an authoritative voice on your topic or subject of focus.
  • It suggests further avenues of information and inquiry for readers who wish to continue their study on your topic or subject of focus.
  • It allows readers to follow up on your research sources if they wish to check for accuracy or to challenge your ideas.
  • It allows you and your reader to situate your argument or commentary within the body of literature on your topic.

How can I avoid plagiarism?

  • Develop and practice good time management habits
  • Use the library’s resources for citing sources (both within the text of your essay and in the list of references at the end of the essay)
  • Ask questions when you are uncertain if information should be cited in your essay
  • Keep research logs and notes related to the sources you use and refer to these when redrafting and proofreading your essays
  • Ask questions when you are uncertain about assignment guidelines or class policies

Where can I find more information on plagiarism?

The following links provide further information related to plagiarism and the need for giving attribution to your research sources.

Trinity University Academic Honor Code
Avoiding Plagiarism: Practical Strategies  (from the Duke University Library)