Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Plagiarism is stealing. (Blend Images-John Lund/Getty Images)


Plagiarism is the act of using the work of another and passing it off as one's own. Also called cheating and academic misconduct.

At schools, colleges, and universities, common types of plagiarism include the following:
(1) failing to provide the source of a quotation, summary, or paraphrase 
(2) allowing or hiring another person to write all or part of a composition, report, or research paper
(3) using all or part of a text acquired through an online "essay mill" or other term-paper service

The fundamental principle of academic honesty is that whenever writers use someone else's ideas, they must document their sources.

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:

From the Latin, "kidnapping"

Examples and Observations

  • "Plagiarism is a species of intellectual fraud. It consists of unauthorized copying that the copier claims (whether explicitly or implicitly, and whether deliberately or carelessly) is original with him and the claim causes the copier's audience to behave otherwise than it would if it knew the truth."
    (Richard A. Posner, The Little Book of Plagiarism. Pantheon, 2007)
  • "No plagiarist can excuse the wrong by showing how much of his work he did not pirate."
    (Judge Learned Hand, "Sheldon vs. Metro-Goldwyn Pictures Corp," 1936)
  • "Student norms contrast with official norms not just because of this proliferation of quoting without attribution, but because students question the very possibility of originality. They often reveal profound insights into the nature of creation and demonstrate a considered acceptance of sharing and collaboration."
    (Susan D. Blum, My Word! Plagiarism and College Culture. Cornell University Press, 2009)
  • How to Reduce Plagiarism
    "[A]ccording to the results of an experiment conducted by professors at the University of Michigan and Swarthmore College . . ., incidents of plagiarism could be reduced by as much as 65 percent when students participated in a '15-minute Web-based tutorial that [taught them] what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it . . ..' The Web tutorials, according to the researchers, were especially effective with one high-risk group in particular: those who had lower SAT scores coming into their institution."
    (D. Nagel, "Plagiarism Deterred Through Information, Not Threats." Campus Technology, February 2, 2010)
  • Who Plagiarizes?
    - "The section of the University of Oregon handbook that deals with plagiarism . . . was copied from the Stanford handbook. . . .

    "No wonder young people are confused, and no wonder they continue to plagiarize in record numbers, with more than 40 percent of college students admitting to copying from the Internet in 2001. We talk to them about plagiarism in absolute terms, as if we were all agreed on what it was, and yet the literature suggests that once you’re out of school, it proves to be a crime like any other, with the punishment partly depending on whom you know and on how well you pull it off."
    (C. McGrath, "Plagiarism: Everybody Into the Pool." The New York Times, January 7, 2007)

    - "A report from the Higher Education Academy [UK] . . . estimates that plagiarism among taught postgraduate students was much higher than among undergraduates. . . . The report says: 'It was surprising to observe that the recorded level of plagiarism among postgraduate students (1.19%) was so much higher than the recorded level among undergraduate students (0.67%). The traditional view is that inexperienced pupils entering higher education are the most likely to commit plagiarism due to a lack of skills in academic literacy and citation techniques.'"
    (Natasha Gilbert, "Copy Editing." The Guardian, June 24, 2008)

    - "In an undergraduate survey conducted this academic year at a dozen colleges by Rutgers professor Donald McCabe, 67% of the 13,248 respondents admitted to having cheated at least once on a paper or test."
    (J. Rawe, "Battling Term-Paper Cheats." Time, May 17, 2007)

  • Cultural Attitudes Toward Plagiarism
    - "The studies by Hull and Rose (1989) and Blum (2009) have examined plagiarism as a cultural phenomenon that has arisen, at least in part, in the conflicts between the norms and values of the students and their teachers. . . .

    "Culture has been seen as an even greater factor when discussing students whose home cultures may differ from the dominant Western cultures that have largely shaped attitudes toward plagiarism and intellectual property. Of all the factors underlying the discussion of 'Why do L2 writers cheat?' culture has probably been the most prominently discussed. Often when L2 writers plagiarize, it is the cultural, not the developmental, factors that are primarily given as a possible cause of plagiarism by non-Western writers."
    (Joel Bloch, Plagiarism, Intellectual Property and the Teaching of L2 Writing. Multilingual Matters, 2012)

    - "Lord Woolf highlighted how the concept of plagiarism can vary across cultures. For example, imitation can be regarded as a form of flattery and respect. As [Rob] Behrens told the inquiry, 'Chinese colleagues comment "what you call plagiarism we call good practice," so you have to explain to people they can do X and they can't do Y. You can't just assume it is known. It also applies to British students. We can no longer have assumptions about what students know when they go to university.'

    "Behrens says universities should do more to communicate their rules, procedures and sanctions on plagiarism. And Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students agrees, especially to avoid 'accidental cheating,' such as when a student has been unclear about when to cite a source. 'I'd like to see more universities use the plagiarism software for student training as well as detection. If students can see what sets off the "plagiarism alarm" that helps.'"
    (Sue Littlemore, "Universities Need to Tell Students the Rules About Plagiarism, Says Adjudicator." The Guardian, June 11, 2012)

    Pronunciation: PLAY-je-riz-em

    mla apa chicago
    Your Citation
    Nordquist, Richard. "plagiarism." ThoughtCo, Jul. 21, 2016, Nordquist, Richard. (2016, July 21). plagiarism. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "plagiarism." ThoughtCo. (accessed December 18, 2017).