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Library Tutorials for Psychology

Tutorial 5

Tutorial 5: How does plagiarism happen? Academic ethics and originality


What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is claiming someone else’s intellectual work as your own. It is a very serious breach of academic ethics.

Plagiarism can be either intentional (knowingly copying material) or unintentional (accidentally neglecting to cite a source). Students can be disciplined for plagiarizing even if it was unintentional. 

Most plagiarism happens when students feel desperate and have not given themselves enough time to grapple with the material, seek help, and do the work on their own. 

Professors are shocked and saddened when students plagiarize, because it violates the implicit agreement between professor and student. Learning can only happen if students use their own ideas to complete coursework. 

What can happen if you plagiarize?

  • You might receive a zero on an assignment, fail the course, or be sent before a disciplinary panel.
  • You will not learn the course content yourself, which wastes the time and money you’ve invested in your education.
  • A professor who has caught you plagiarizing is unlikely to write you a letter of reference for jobs or graduate school.
  • Plagiarism can ruin reputations, both in college and in the working world. Some high-profile cases are those of Jonah Lehrer and Stephen Ambrose.

How can you avoid plagiarism?

  • Cite your sources! Give credit using in-text citations and your reference list. 
  • Give yourself plenty of time to complete your assignments. If you are having trouble with an assignment, seek help from your professor, a librarian, Academic Support, or the Student Communication Center. 
  • Set up a note-taking system. Gather the citation information for each of your sources, and clearly mark your notes so you can tell the difference between copy-pasted content, summary, and your own thoughts. 

Note-taking and citation help you avoid plagiarism

Make a plan for how and where you will take notes and record your sources. Taking good notes from the beginning will help you avoid plagiarism and properly cite your sources in APA style.