What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is using another person's words or ideas without acknowledgment.

What are some examples of plagiarism?

Plagiarism includes actions such as submitting a paper you have not written and saying it is your own; copying answers or text from someone else; and quoting, citing data, or using someone else's ideas without crediting the source.

What are some of the consequences of plagiarism?

The plagiarist can face charges of academic misconduct even if the person whose work he or she copied did not know about the plagiarism or did not object to it. In addition, the plagiarist loses the chance to develop his or her ideas and do the learning that exercise involves.

How can I avoid plagiarism?

Use quotation marks and ellipses when quoting directly. When you summarize material, restate it in your own words and credit the source.

Is plagiarism the same as copyright infringement?

No. Plagiarism is breaking an ethical code and can lead to discipline from the university. Copyright infringement, on the other hand, is breaking a federal law and can lead to an expensive trial and costly fines. It is possible to commit plagiarism without committing copyright infringement. For example, you could use a work that is not protected by copyright, such as a public domain work, or you could use a portion of someone else's copyrighted work that is small enough not to constitute infringement. Failing to properly cite the creator of a work does however weaken your claim of fair use. Here are some examples of the difference between the two:

  • Plagiarism, not copyright infringement: You copy a few sentences word for word from On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin for your report on evolution, but you do not cite the original work or acknowledge the author. This is plagiarism because you have presented someone else’s work as your own. However, it is not copyright infringement because the copyright term for On the Origin of Species has expired; this means that the work is in the public domain and is no longer protected by copyright.
  • Copyright infringement, not plagiarism: You create a website to provide information to the public on an important topic. To make your material more engaging, you search the internet for decorative or funny images and include at least one image on every page of your site. You are careful to cite the source of each image. This is not plagiarism because you have properly cited the source of each image. However, this could be considered copyright infringement if no statutory exception, such as fair use, applies. This is because materials found online are protected by copyright even if they are not accompanied by a copyright notice, and you are reproducing and distributing copies (two of the exclusive rights of rights holders) of a protected work without permission. You can avoid copyright infringement in this situation by using images that are in the public domain or licensed for your use (such as Creative Commons licensed materials).
  • Both plagiarism and copyright infringement: You post a recently published short story by your favorite author to your blog, and claim that you wrote it yourself. This is plagiarism because you are using someone else’s work without giving them credit, and it is likely copyright infringement because you are reproducing and distributing copies (two of the exclusive rights of rights holders) of a protected work without permission (assuming no statutory exception, such as fair use, applies).
  • Neither plagiarism nor copyright infringement: You include several short quotes from scholarly articles in your research paper and you include citation information for each source. This is not plagiarism as you have clearly identified third party material in your report by using quotation marks and providing citations to the original sources. This is also not likely copyright infringement because the use of short quotes in research is a widely accepted example of fair use, statutory exception included in U.S. Copyright Law.

Citing your sources

While citation is not a requirement found in copyright law, you cannot avoid copyright infringement simply by crediting the source. Citations do, however, demonstrate responsible use and are a scholarly tradition. It is important to provide attribution to the known copyright owner(s) of each work you are using.

At minimum, provide the author’s name, title of the work (if available), and source of the work. Insert your citation in a reasonable location, to allow readers to easily identify the copyright owner. This may be next to the work in small font, as a footnote, or as an endnote.  Additionally, your discipline may require adherence to a specific style guide. Follow any formatting guidelines and requirements issued by your College.

If you are reproducing a work under a license agreement, include any additional information required by the license terms. This includes full and proper attribution for openly licensed content that is made available under a Creative Commons license.

Resources on plagiarism

DISCLAIMER: The information on these web pages and that received from Copyright Services at The Ohio State University Libraries and the Health Sciences Copyright Coordinator is not legal advice, nor is either office legal counsel to the university or any members of the university community.