Marshall University’s policy on academic dishonesty/plagiarism can be found on the main University Policies site.

Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism

As writers and researchers, we can learn a number of lessons from definitions of plagiarism and Marshall’s policies regarding academic dishonesty–lessons that, if put into practice, ought to help us avoid the suspicion of plagiarism:

  • Do not borrow or buy a paper from another person or an online source and submit it as a your own
  • Do not incorporate ideas from another person’s work, published or unpublished, in print or online, without properly citing the source
  • Do not use the structure or organization of ideas from another person’s work, published or unpublished, in print or online, without properly citing the source
  • Do not cut and paste or retype passages or phrases from another person’s work, published or unpublished, in print or online, without properly citing the source
  • Do not try to avoid plagiarism by substituting synonyms for the source’s original words or by rearranging the word order of the source
  • Do not forget to place quotation marks around any words, phrases, or sentences you take from a source
  • Do not forget to include acknowledgments and citations that attribute words, phrases, sentences, or ideas to their original source

Definitions and Policies

What follows are definitions of plagiarism taken from three randomly chosen writer’s handbooks.

The Everyday Writer defines two types of plagiarism:

Deliberate plagiarism is the act of copying “passages directly from source materials” (119).

Unintended plagiarism is “a quotation accidentally used without quotation marks, a paraphrase that too closely resembles the original, background details used without acknowledgment in the mistaken belief that none was necessary” (119).

The Little, Brown Compact Handbook also differentiates between deliberate and accidental plagiarism.

Deliberate plagiarism is “copying or downloading a phrase, a sentence, or a longer passage from a course and passing it off as your own by omitting quotation marks and a source citation”; “summarizing or paraphrasing someone else’s ideas without acknowledging your debt in a source citation”; “handing in as your own work you have bought, had a friend write, or copied from another student” (334).

Accidental plagiarism is “forgetting to place quotation marks around another writer’s words” (334).

Keys for Writers says “you will be perceived as plagiarizing if you include in your own essay a passage, an identifiable phrase, or an idea that you have copied from someone else’s work without acknowledging and documenting your source”; “use exactly the same sequence of ideas and organization of argument as your source”; “fail to put an author’s words in quotation marks”; “use in your paper long sections that have been rewritten by a friend or tutor”; “buy, find, or receive a paper that you turn in as your own work” (84-85). It goes on to add: “Substituting synonyms for some or most of the words in an author’s passage still results in a plagiarized passage. When you summarize or paraphrase . . . you should use your own sentence structure as well as your own words. Even if you are careful to cite your source, your writing will still be regarded as plagiarized if it resembles the original source too closely in working or sentence structure” (85).

Like most universities, Marshall considers plagiarism to be a form of academic dishonesty, which it defines for students and faculty in the undergraduate handbook section entitled, “Academic Rights and Responsibilities of Students: Policy Statement.” What follows is the policy as it is worded in the handbook:

C. Academic Dishonesty: any act of a dishonorable nature which gives the student engaged in it an unfair advantage over others engaged in the same or similar course of study and which, if known to the classroom instructor in such course of study, would be prohibited. This shall include, but is not limited to, the following: securing or giving unfair assistance during examinations or required work of any type; the improper use of books, notes, or other sources of information; submitting as one’s own work or creation any oral, graphic, or written material wholly or in part created by another; securing all, or any part of assignments or examinations, in advance of their submission to the class by the instructor; altering of any grade or other academic record; and any other type of misconduct or activity which manifests dishonesty or unfairness in academic work. Each classroom instructor may modify the general definition of academic dishonesty to fit the immediate academic needs of a particular class, provided the instructor defines, in writing, the details of any such departure from the general definition. Academic dishonesty also includes conspiring with or knowingly helping or encouraging a student to engage in academic dishonesty.

Of course, much of the list on how to avoid plagiarism becomes moot if you approach the research project as an exploration and formulation of your own ideas on the subject being researched. In this scenario, the aim of the research project is not merely to report or synthesize what you read. Rather, the aim is to interact critically with the sources you find on your subject. To achieve this objective, it’s crucial to consider just why you are consulting and using sources in the first place: Is it merely to provide material that can be pieced together in your essay? Or is it, as composition expert Cindy Moore recommends, to “determine what you might contribute to the public conversation on your topic—what you might add, expand upon, or complicate by conducting your own investigation” (119)?

Provided by Dr. Janet Badia, Department of English, Marshall University, ©2003