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  • Writer's pictureBrooke Early

Plagiarism: What Is It and How to Avoid It?

What is plagiarism? It involves using someone else's' ideas, writing, thoughts, etc. as your own and not giving them credit. According to Cornell Law School, plagiarism is not directly illegal in the United States but can be taken to the legal system if you are breaking a contract or the original owner chooses to pursue legal action due to a "copyright, trademark, or patent". Plagiarism is more commonly viewed as breaking an honor code or ethics by universities and even work places.

Plagiarism can come in many forms. It does not only occur when writing papers such as your personal essay or application essay, it can also include having a friend, service, or otherwise found outline or information and creating your work from said outline or information. For example, if you were to have a friend outline a paper for you, pay a service, or use a paper you found online and you finish it but claim the finished result as yours without properly citing and giving credit you can be found for committing plagiarism. This would also be the case if you were were completing a coding assignment for class and used code from a friend or from the internet and did not properly cite or acknowledge this as somebody else's work. Many universities will still provide consequences for plagiarism unless it is stated in class you are to work with your peers on an assignment, in which case having multiple peoples' work involved is expected so long as any outside information is properly cited.

Why Should I Understand Plagiarism?

There are varying degrees as to how plagiarism is handled depending on the case and severity in which it happens. This means it is important to understand plagiarism and the importance of correctly crediting your work. The corrective action received can range from a failing grade, failing the course, suspension, to expulsion. A university may choose to decline your application if you are found guilty of plagiarizing any admission documents such as your personal essay.

Each university will likely have a code of conduct and policies in place to handle plagiarism, so be sure to familiarize yourself with this each semester. While you are studying abroad in the U.S., most faculty members will also review the plagiarism policy with you during the syllabus review for their class. Remember, plagiarism is not always intentional and can be done on accident, so it is best to always do your research, use resources on campus such as writing labs, and check with your professor to ensure you are following your college or university policy before final submission.

How Do I Avoid Plagiarizing?

As mentioned above, plagiarism is not always intentional. Many people will plagiarize by accident by using somebody else's ideas in a summary or by not properly citing the source or original author. Be sure to understand the proper citation format for what you are writing, and what the requirements are for your college or university. A few great resources many students will use to aid when citing sources are Purdue Owl, BibMe, and if you use Google Chrome as your browser there is even an extension you can use to cite your sources and check for plagiarism. For continuous updates and resources regarding plagiarism check out

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