What is plagiarism?

According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, to "plagiarize" means:

  • To steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own.
  • To use (another's production) without crediting the source.
  • To commit literary theft.
  • To present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.
In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else's work and lying about it afterward.

How can you avoid plagiarism?

When using sources in your reserarch, you can avoid plagiarism by knowing what must be documented.

  • Specific words and phrases

    If you use an author's specific word or words, you must place those words within quotation marks and you must credit the source.

  • Information and Ideas

    Even if you use your own words, if you obtained the information or ideas you are presenting from a source, you must document the source.

    information: If a piece of information isn't common knowledge (see "Common Knowledge" below), you need to provide a source.

    Ideas: An author's ideas may include not only points made and conclusions drawn, but, for instance, a specific method or theory, the arrangement of material, or a list of steps in a process or characteristics of a medical condition. If a source provided any of these, you need to acknowledge the source.

  • Common Knowledge?

    You do not need to cite a source for material considered common knowledge.

    General common knowledge is factual information considered to be in the public domain, such as birth and death dates of well-known figures, and generally accepted dates of military, political, literary, and other historical events. In general, factual information contained in multiple standard reference works can usually be considered to be in the public domain.

    Field-specific common knowledge is "common" only within a particular field or specialty. It may include facts, theories, or methods that are familiar to readers within that discipline. For instance, you may not need to cite a reference to Piaget's developmental stages in a paper for an education class or give a source for your description of a commonly used method in a biology report—but you must be sure that this information is so widely known within that field that it will be shared by your readers.

    If in doubt, be cautious and cite the source. And in the case of both general and field-specific common knowledge, if you use the exact words of the reference source, you must use quotation marks and credit the source.

What are the consequences for plagiarizing?

The consequences that are currently being enforced are outlined in the VTSD Parent/Student Handbook and are as follows:

All forms of cheating, e.g., copying assignments completed by others, copying of quiz, test, or examination answers, giving assignments to others, the pilfering or intent to pilfer a quiz, test, or examination, plagiarism, etc., in essence, all activities which do not reflect the student's own work are not condoned at Vernon Township High School. Each incident of cheating, or attempting to cheat, will be dealt with individually.

Generally, each incident will result in a penalty of zero for the assignment, quiz, test, or examination, notification to parent(s) of the incident, and a conference involving the parent(s), student, teacher, and guidance counselor so that by mutual efforts, the likelihood of recurrence will be reduced. In addition, school discipline may be imposed, and the student will be disqualified from The National Honor Society, if the student is currently a member of The National Honor Society they will have their membership rescinded.

When you plagiarize you are not only cheating the original author, you are also cheating yourself. You are cheating yourself from the chance to expand your knowledge on a topic.

VTHS Media Center