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Research 101: Avoiding Plagiarism

A guide to help you develop good research skills!

Academic Honesty

"No student shall submit as his or her own work any term paper, research paper, thesis or other academic assignment of original work that in any part is not in fact his/her own work. Knowingly using the ideas of another person and offering them as one's own original ideas is prohibited by this policy to the same extent as knowingly using the words of another writer and offering them as one's own original writing."

Academic Honesty (Policy 2.19), Mississippi College

To Avoid Plagiarism

To avoid plagiarizing:

  • Paraphrase the original text into your own words.
  • Use quotation marks around text that has been taken directly from the original source.
  • Cite every source of information you use in your paper unless it is common knowledge or the results of your own research.


These scenarios were taken directly from the University of Rochester, Board of Academic Honesty online material.

Retrieved from:

Plagiarism @ MC

"Plagiarism is the use of reference sources without providing correct acknowledgements. When you use ideas or words created by another person and do not give proper credit, you are claiming the words or ideas are your own. In essence, you are stealing from the original writer."

Plagiarism may take many forms:

  • cheating,
  • copying information directly without providing quotation marks,
  • failing to cite sources, or
  • citing sources incorrectly.

It does not matter whether you intended to plagiarize or whether the plagiarism occurred unintentionally; it still constitutes academic dishonesty. Ignorance of the rules of correct citation is not an acceptable excuse.

Plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty can subject a student to disciplinary action under the university Academic Honesty Policy.

What Do You Think?

Answer yes or no to the following questions. Keep track of your answers.

  1. You are working on a computer lab at a public work station. You finish your work, save it to your thumb drive and leave, forgetting to delete your work from the work station. Another student in your class comes along, finds your file and turns it in as her own. Are you guilty of academic dishonesty?
  1. You are taking a mid-term in a large lecture room and some notes that you brought with you slide out from under the seat where you had stowed them. Can you be charged with academic dishonesty by the professor or a proctor?
  1. You ask your professor whether she would be willing to read a draft of an essay that is due in a week. Your essay contains paraphrases of secondary sources that you used in your essay but haven’t marked yet as the ideas of other people. You figure this is okay, since this is a draft of the essay and not the final copy you plan to turn in. Is this considered academic dishonesty?
  1. Your professor writes you an email stating that he believes you may have committed an act of academic dishonesty in his class. You panic and withdraw from the course. You are later called before the Board on Academic Honesty. At the hearing, you are shocked to learn that you have been reinstated in the class. Are you still responsible for finishing the class?
  1. You enroll in a two-credit dance class. Besides learning different kinds of movement, you also have to write a five-page essay on a topic assigned by the instructor. You use a lot of material from the Internet in your essay and don’t have time to cite it properly. You figure this is okay since most of the grade is based on your dance performance. Besides, it is only a two-credit dance class and not a real academic course and the professor didn’t say anything about citation. Are you guilty of plagiarism?
  1. You ask a friend, who is a good writer, to look over your paper. She is happy to help and finds many awkward phrases and ambiguous assertions, which she re-writes for you. She even develops a few new arguments to help support your thesis. You are happy because she was able to express clearly and persuasively what you had been trying to say all along. Is this academic dishonesty?
  1. You need a permission code to get into a lab section. Your professor gives you the code, which you share with a friend who wants to be in the same section. Can you be charged with academic dishonesty?
  1. You notice that a paper assignment in your class is just like one you wrote for another class. You change the cover sheet and a few sentences in the introduction and turn it in. This is okay because it is your own work, right?
  1. Your professor allows collaboration on homework assignments and encourages study groups but still expects you to do your own work. You and two friends discuss the problem and work through it together. Portions of your final work are identical, but that should be okay, since most of the work is your own. Can you be charged with academic dishonesty?
  1. You are shocked to see that you received a failing grade in your literature class. You thought you were doing quite well and had a “B” average for the class. When you contact your professor to find out why you failed, he confronts you with evidence that you plagiarized portions of your last essay. “Any student who plagiarizes in my class, fails,” he tells you. “No exceptions.” Is that the end of the matter?
  1. A good friend of yours is desperate. He is in danger of failing the biology class you are both in. If he fails, he will be placed on academic probation. He knows you are an excellent student and asks you to sit at the next exam in such a way that he can see your answers. It’s the only way he’ll pass the class. His request makes you uncomfortable, but, since you’re not the one copying answers, you figure you will not be charged with academic dishonesty. Are you right?
  1.  You are in an advanced language class and are stumped trying to write a composition so you write some sentences in English and use an automatic translation program on the Internet to help you out. This is okay, since it’s like using a dictionary, and the professor said dictionaries were allowed. Is that academically honest?

Answer Key

What Is Plagiarism? Video by Rutgers Library