Plagiarism is a Serious Offense!

Lewis Pulsipher

When you write a formal paper, the words must be your own. If you use someone else’s words, you must give credit to the originator, using quotation marks (or indentations and single-spacing for longer quotes) to indicate the “foreign origin”. If you do not, you are guilty of plagiarism.

Not only must the words be your own, but you cannot merely paraphrase someone else (change a few words here and there, but still follow more or less exactly what someone else has written). This is a lesser form of plagiarism. You need to absorb information, churn it around through your own experience and perception, and write what you think.

Not long ago at a local college, two students in a local college class handed in identical papers. They’d each independently bought it from one of the “cheat paper mills” that exist. I am not so much concerned that someone here will purchase a paper, not writing any of it. And I have the added advantage that there are methods I can use that check common sources of “bought” papers to help detect such stuff.

I’m more concerned that you’ll string together long sections from one or more items you find in books, magazines, or the Internet. Folks, I was not born yesterday, and I can often recognize when something “sounds like” it wasn’t written by you, like it wasn’t you who’d doing the “talking”. And when I sense that, I’ll look for the sources.

Folks, I stress this in every class, and I’ve still had people hand in clearly plagiarized work. That will get you a flunking grade in this class. I hope that is clear.

Here’s the short version of a story a heard recently. A student at NC State, in her last year, excellent grades, handed in a paper in a class that derived largely from “Cliff’s Notes”, without attributing the source (she was somewhat embarrassed to be using Cliff’s Notes, though she said “everybody does it”). Well, the instructor recognized the unattributed source, and quite rightly charged the student with plagiarism. While using “Cliff’s Notes” is not what you expect of senior students, to do so without attribution is definitely dead wrong. The student had to retake the course.