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What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the failure to acknowledge your sources.

When writing a paper, you must give credit where credit is due. There are several bibliographic citation formats (e.g. APA, MLA) that can be employed to assist you with this task. Any research article will reveal numerous citations. It is understood that human knowledge is a cumulative process and that we learn from one another. Even the experts must cite one another! No one is exempt!

What is Academic Integrity?

Academic integrity refers to the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner.

Academic dishonesty refers to a variety of practices including copying another person's work, collaborating without permission, and plagiarizing or failing to acknowledge ideas, data, graphics or other content without proper and full acknowledgement.


Whenever you are researching and writing a paper, it is essential to acknowledge your sources; otherwise, you are guilty of plagiarism. As noted in the Durham College Student Handbook, plagiarism is an infringement of Academic Honesty (Student Responsibilities – Section 2.1 Academic Integrity) and can have severe consequences (Student Responsibilities – Section 2.2 Penalties) for the offender.

Common Myths

The Library tries to teach students to uphold Academic Integrity by avoiding Plagiarism. The Citation & Writing section contains additional information on citation styles and handbooks (MLA, APA, IEEE, McGill), citing Indigenous sources and writing annotated bibliographies.

If I acknowledge all my sources, my paper will just be a string of citations. It won't look like I've thought of anything on my own and I'll get a failing grade anyway.

WRONG: First, you don't need to cite common knowledge (e.g. Milk is a good source of calcium), but when in doubt it is better to "over cite" than not at all. Secondly, working independently, no two people will interpret their sources in exactly the same way, select the exact same quotations or paraphrase with identical words. How you consolidate information and relay conclusions based on your sources is what makes you and your resulting paper unique.

Just the process of assimilating information, however, can be overwhelming! It's best to have a plan; this will keep you focused and will help you resist the temptation to plagiarize in a moment of frustration. Review the Library's helpful hints on the Research Process. There are six steps - Get Started; Understanding Information Sources; Access & Find; Search Strategies; Evaluate & Analyse; and Present & Cite. Developing an effective thesis statement or a brief summary of your point of view on a topic is the first step in avoiding plagiarism. You are showing that you can assimilate and interpret information by taking a "stand".

Citing others is then simply part of the process of validating your argument.

WRONG: What you are doing is paraphrasing. While you are not using the exact same words in the exact same order, you are relaying the author's idea as your own.

WRONG: First, an author does not have to be one or more specific persons. An author can be a company, government body, charitable group or any other organization. Secondly, if you can't find a name, the rules of citation explicitly state that acknowledgement must be done using the information that has been provided (e.g. title, date, page numbers).

Only paper sources have to be cited because they are stable and last a long time. For example, the Internet changes on a daily basis with web sites being updated constantly; once a radio broadcast is aired, it is "over"; whatever is said in class "disappears into thin air". There is no need to cite sources that are "here today and gone tomorrow".

WRONG: The medium is irrelevant. It is simply the vehicle for relaying words and ideas. The author still must be credited.

These are just a few common myths Be sure to follow your professor's instructions and follow an approved bibliographic citation guide to ensure that you do not get "caught" by any of the misconceptions surrounding plagiarism.

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