What Is Plagiarism?

Did you know that you can plagiarize yourself?

Geoff Pope, Writing for
5-minute read
Episode #252

What Is Plagiarism?

Today we’re going to discuss a serious topicplagiarismso serious that we’ve brought in a ninja to emphasize the point.

What Is Plagiarism?

You may have already read or heard that plagiarism is “a serious academic offense” (1) and “a form of intellectual dishonesty” (2). But you still may be wondering, What precisely is plagiarism? Plagiarism is the act of presenting the words or ideas of someone else as if they are your own words or ideas; in other words, it’s not giving credit where credit is due—and that’s bad (and the Ninja may kill you), especially when the plagiarized work is submitted for a grade or appears in a publication. Merriam-Webster defines the verb plagiarize in this way: “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own…[to] use (another’s production) without crediting the source” (3).


Stealing, Sinning, Cheating, and Plagiarizing

Stealing someone else’s words may not seem like a big deal, but it is. And the academic community is not the only place where plagiarism is considered a major violation. Recently The New York Times reported that “[t]he creators of South Park…apologized…to the creators of a Web comedy video satirizing the summer blockbuster Inception, saying that they had used dialogue from a video on the Web site CollegeHumor.com” (4). A sincere apology, however, doesn’t always settle the case. In another news story this year, “Zachery Kouwe, a [former] New York Times business reporter…resigned…after he was accused of plagiarizing from The Wall Street Journal. An internal review of his work turned up more articles…containing copy clearly lifted from other news sources without proper citations. Plagiarism is a mortal journalistic sin…” (5).

As for the problem of plagiarism in higher education, another New York Times article reported that “in surveys from 2006 to 2010 by Donald L. McCabe, a co-founder of the Center for Academic Integrity and a business professor at Rutgers University, about 40 percent of 14,000 undergraduates admitted to copying a few sentences in written assignments. Perhaps more significant, the number who believed that copying from the Web constitutes ‘serious cheating’ is declining…” (6).

Next: How to Avoid Unintentional Plagiarism