Plagiarism is defined as using someone else’s words, original ideas, or data in your work of writing without giving proper credit or reference to the creator. In other words, you present another person’s ideas as your own.
To be fair, ethical, and moral you must acknowledge the authors of your sources. Whether the work belongs to a member of the class or is published, you must act responsibly. Acting without responsibility makes you guilty of an academic offense. As in any offense, consequences follow. One of these consequences may be academic dismissal, because plagiarism is a form of theft. The United States of America copyright law governing publications states that the authorship of sources must be acknowledged. If material is borrowed long enough, payment is due to the original author as well. Thus, writers must make it a top priority to carefully document sources.
Plagiarism can be avoided by simply supplying appropriate credit where it is due. This is done by documenting the passage. Documentation takes several forms, but all tell the reader that other people’s ideas (not simply your own) went into the work. Examples can be located below.
The only exception . . . Common knowledge: meaning that the usual information can be found in a number of general and easily accessible sources. Examples: the dates and names of historical events, the temperature at which water boils, George Washington was the first American president.
When in doubt, cite the source!
No animal had done more to renew interest in animal intelligence that a beguiling, bilingual bonobo named Kanzi, who has the grammatical abilities of a 2 ½ year old child and a taste for movies about cavemen. —Eugune Linden, Animals, p.57
Adapted from: Hacker, Diana. A Writer’s Reference. Boston: St. Martin’s Press, 1995.