Understanding Plagiarism

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In the Kutztown University handbook, The Key, there is a legislative definition of plagiarism:

“Plagiarizing the work of others and presenting it as one’s own without properly acknowledging the source or sources. At its worst extreme, plagiarism is exact copying, but it is also the inclusion of a paraphrased version of the opinions and work of others without giving credit. It is not limited to written materials. It includes the wrongful appropriation in whole or in part of someone else’s literary, artistic, musical, mechanical, or computer-based work” (The Key 52).


The consequences for plagiarizing are dire, yet many students tend to be confused about what plagiarism actually is.

Typically there are two types of plagiarism: intentional and unintentional.

Intentional plagiarism is a direct attempt to appropriate the ideas of an author in place of your own original ideas whether it is through exact phrasing or paraphrasing. Students end up plagiarizing for many reasons, so it’s important to proactively address these reasons in an attempt to prevent the plagiarism from occurring. Faculty can use a proactive, instructive approach can help the student to see them as an ally in constructing a paper ethically.

Plagiarism is often a product of poor self confidence in writing ability and poor time management. There should be strategies in place in the classroom that prevent students from relying on dishonest methods to finish an assignment.

English Language Learners (ELL) should also be informed that the appropriation of the ideas of other writers is not allowed. Due to cultural differences, ELL students may believe that it is acceptable or even admirable to use the ideas of another individual as his/her own.

Unintentional plagiarism is often a misadventure of developing writers who struggle to understand the conventions of writing and documentation of sources.


Common Ways Students Plagiarize:

Copying a thesis or idea. Be clear with students that they cannot just rephrase an argument and make it their own. They may incorporate an argument for support, but they must cite it properly.

Copying word for word. This is commonly a result of poor note taking skills. In order to practice academic integrity, students should get used to documenting sources in their notes. They should also summarize what they’ve read instead of simply copying and pasting.

Including information, phrases or jargon without documentation. When including a concept or theory, it is important not to skip on the citation, even if you think it is generally widely known.

Misappropriation of quotes. It is generally frowned upon to take the idea of an author and make it into something to suit your purposes. For example, you would take “I hated this movie because it lacked a certain zeal” and turn it into: “this movie….zeal.” It’s not directly copying and pasting something to make it your own, but it is distorting information for your own purposes.

Forgetting quotation marks. For this reason, it is vitally important that students thoroughly revise their writing to scan for missing quotation marks.

Unsure of citation style. Faculty members must be clear when expressing formatting expectations. Students should be able to locate clear instructions on the particular documentation style required for the course.



Works Cited

“Definitions of Academic Dishonesty.” The Key. Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, 2014. Web.

Contributed by Marlana Eck


One thought on “Understanding Plagiarism

    marlanaesquire responded:
    March 19, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    Reblogged this on Things Fall Apart and commented:

    A little project I did which will be disseminated to the faculty and students at Kutztown University.

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