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Plagiarism seems like such an easy concept to understand: the dishonest practice of claiming credit for something you didn't do. Avoiding plagiarism seems equally simple: giving credit where credit is due. And it is that simple sort of.

Learning is a combination of absorbing information from experts and developing our own reasoned thoughts on a subject. When students demonstrate their knowledge on a subject, often in the form of written papers, they are expected to show, by giving credit, how these experts have informed their understanding and interpretation. When proper credit for an idea or specific language is not given, the student has plagiarized.

While some instances of plagiarism are well understood by most people, other types are not as obvious. Students know that putting their name on a paper written by someone else is plagiarism, but they are less clear about when to give credit to others for ideas included in their papers. This site attempts to clarify what actions are considered plagiarism and provide techniques for avoiding them. A brief glossary is included to clarify some of the language used to talk about plagiarism. To illustrate some of the citation styles, each section uses a different citation format.

The Checkpoint in each section gives the reader an opportunity to check their understanding of the concepts covered. Students can turn in the results of these quizzes to their professor to show what they have learned about plagiarism. Because there is no one way to define the concept of plagiarism, the Checkpoints also let students make a list of questions to ask their professor to determine how he or she interprets some of the issues.


Last updated 10/22/2008 by Sue Thompson, Toni Olivas
Cal State San Marcos Library