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Avoiding Plagiarism: What is Academic Honesty?

A guide to plagiarism and how to avoid it.

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Academic Honesty

Academic Honesty is an umbrella term that includes a number of actions and activities prohibited at the University and in all professions.  It is important to keep in mind that academic honesty is both an ethical and moral issue.  Additionally copyright law is also a legal issue. 

Creative Commons

You are welcome to reuse the content of this Guide as long as you attribute it to Heritage University Library.

Common Violations of Academic Honesty


Stealing all of someone else’s creative work. Throwing them out of the driver’s seat and replacing their name with yours and driving off with it to submit to your professor as though it was your own.  Right?

Wrong! In games it might be fun to drive with great abandon, in real life, GTP will land you in plagiarism prison.  You won’t like it there.

Doing your own work
Developing your skills as a thinker
Managing your time effectively
Developing your skills as a writer

                            Mashup Plagiarism

A beat from here a rhythm from there, plus a dash of somebody’s techo-funk.  Mix it altogether and you are a musical genius.  Right? 

Wrong! There may be a little bit more latitude in the audio arts.   Drawing from multiple sources without acknowledging any of them and saying they are all yours, however, is plagiarism. 

Keeping track of your sources
Citing, even when in doubt

Cut & Paste Plagiarism              

Oh that paragraph sounds good!   It will be even better with this sentence. Let me just cut and paste it all together.  This makes me sound like a genius . Why bother citing it?  It sounds perfect!  Right?

Wrong! True genius don’t copy other’s ideas.  They create their own.  After college, your boss or client will not be impressed with your cutting and pasting. One of the reasons you are in school is to learn how to think up your own ideas and be able to support and express them.

Using sources as evidence not content
Managing your time effectively

    Now you see it…     now you don’t plagiarism
Find a few synonyms, change a couple phrases around, and presto you have an original paper! Right?

Wrong! Plagiarism is not just using someone else’s words, it is using someone else’s ideas and a few cosmetic changes will not change that!

Creating your own ideas


It’s your paper. You wrote it!  You did a good job.   You got an “A” in another class with it too!  Why not just turn it in again for a new class with a different professor?  Seems legit.  Right?

Wrong! It is indeed your work.  But re-handing in an assignment from another class still constitutes plagiarism, self, plagiarism, copying from yourself.  You are in college to learn new things and explore new ideas.  Don’t cheat yourself of that opportunity.

Extensively revising previous papers
Plan ahead to have time to write that extra paper
Exploring similar topics


Don’t need a hesitation, to make a good citation.
Roll on up and make a magical mystery citation!
Fictional sources will cover your every need!
An “A+” is practically guaranteed!  Right?

Wrong!  With apologies to the Beatles; magical mystery citations, the ones that are simply made up, is saying you got your information from a source that simple does not exist.  One might close with:
Except your professor is coming to take your grade away.
Coming to take it away today…

Use real sources
Do not make up sources


                            Accidental  Plagiarism

Oops, everyone makes mistakes.  Failing or forgetting to cite a source, unfortunately, looks exactly the same as intentional plagiarism.  This is a tough one.  Right?

Correct!  This can be a costly mistake.

Using RefWorks or another citation manager to help you keep track of your sources
Proofreading you assignment before submitting it
Proofread it again
Have someone else proofread it for you

                               Misattribution Plagiarism                

Oops, everyone makes mistakes.  Getting one source mixed up for another is an easy mistake to make.  Unfortunately, it looks like you are giving credit to someone other than the rightful source.  This is another case where an accident can look just like and intentional act of academic dishonesty.  Right?

Correct! This too can be a costly mistake.

Using RefWorks or another citation manager to help you keep track of your sources
Knowing your sources well enough to know who said what
Proofreading you assignment before submitting it.


A quote here, a paraphrase there, a summary too.  Plus a few more quotes.  All correctly cited too.  These authors are soooo good. Much better than me.  Just as Dr. Frankenstein created his monster out of the best parts available, I will stitch this paper together with a few transitional sentences.  Right?

Wrong!  Drawing on the ideas of others is good.  BUT, they need to support and back your ideas, not be the substitute for your ideas.

Being brave enough to express yourself

Looking for evidence to back you up not just cite instead of your ideas


Vice President Al Gore said, 
“During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.”  
Many of his political opponents took what he said out of context and said he claimed to have invented the Internet. It was close to what he said, so it was okay, right?

Wrong!  Picking a small piece of information and twisting it to support your point of view misrepresents  the source and shows you have nothing better to support your argument.

Being honest
Being true to your sources
Using better resources


Aided and Abetted Plagiarism 

Why write your own paper, when you can get someone to write it for you?  Your friend, significant other, or an “essay assistance service, ” aka term paper mill can do all the research and writing for you.  Right?

Wrong!  Just because you can have a friend, significant other, or even a term paper for hire site write your paper, doesn’t mean you should.  In fact you should not under any circumstance have anyone else doe your work!

Do your own work
Write your own paper


How can anyone remember all this stuff?  With test stress I forget everything.  I will just make some little notes to myself to help me along. Right?

Wrong!  In a test everyone is considered to be equally prepared.  Making cheat sheets gives you an unfair advantage over your classmates and deprives you of really learning a topic.

Studying daily
Practicing the material regularly so you understand it

                                  Unauthorized Collaboration 


I get by with a little help from my friends.  They really like me and I would do anything for them.  Sharing papers, answers, and/or assignments is okay, as long as it is between friends.  Right?

Wrong! Unless your professor has divided the class up into study groups for specific assignments, you, and you alone, are responsible for doing your own work.  However well intentioned, having your friends do your work for you or supply you with answers deprives you of a learning opportunity

Doing your own work
Using the ASC
Not doing someone else’s work for them, no matter how good they are to you. (n.d.). Types of plagiarism. Retrieved from

Why Cite?

Why Cite Sources in Your Academic Writing? :  A maturely reasoned essay from Yale University
Citing Sources: Why & How to Do It
An instructive video from the Oregon School Library Information System

Plagiarism in the News

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