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Plagiarism: Don't Let It Happen to You!: Home

A guide to understanding plagiarism and how to avoid it

Defining Plagiarism

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the technical term for stealing someone else's intellectual property (words or thoughts).

Plagiarism is derived from the Latin word plagiarius meaning "kidnapper."

Plagiarism “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own : use (another's production) without crediting the source.”
Plagiarism. (2010). In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.Retrieved January 12, 2011, from

"As a community of students and scholars, The University strives to set and maintain the highest standards of academic integrity.  All members of the university community are expected to exhibit honesty and competence in academic work [...] Any dishonesty related to academic work or records constitutes academic misconduct including, but not limited to, activities such as giving or receiving unauthorized aid in tests and examinations, improperly obtaining a copy of an examination, plagiarism, misrepresentation of information, altering transcripts or university records [....] Such acts [...] are subject to investigation and disciplinary action through appropriate University procedures. Penalties may range from the loss of credit for a particular assignment to dismissal from the University." USA Student Conduct Policy

How Plagiarism Changed a Life

Kaavya Viswanathan was 19 year old freshman at Harvard when she published a book in April 2006 titled How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life. The book was hugely popular; however, it soon became apparent that parts of the book were plagiarized from other best selling "chick lit" books.  Bookstores pulled the book from the shelves on April 27,2006.  In the end, there were more than 40 identified plagiarized passages.

Click here to read the Harvard Crimson's article on the Viswanathan saga.

Click here for a sample of the supposed plagiarized passages

5 Types of Plagiarism

Type 1: Copy and Paste Plagiarism or Direct Plagiarism

When you copy a sentence, phrase, or paragraph word for word, but do not quote your source.

Type 2: Word Switch Plagiarism

When you rephrase a person's work and insert it into your own work without acknowledging its original source.  If you take a sentence from a source and change a few works without acknowledging your source, it is still plagiarism.

This is not paraphrasing. For information on how to correctly paraphrase, see When To Cite.

Type 3: Mosaic or Blending Plagiarism

When you: mix words or ideas from an unacknowledged source in with your own words or ideas; mix together uncited words and ideas from several sources into a single work; or mix together properly cited uses of a source with uncited uses.

Type 4: Insufficient Acknowledgement

When you correctly cite your source once, but continue to use the author's work with out giving additional proper citation.

Type 5: Self-Plagiarism

When you use a paper or assignment completed for one class to satisfy the assignment for a different class.  Even if you modify a previous paper or assignment, you must get permission from your professor/ instructor and correctly cite your previous paper.

How Plagiarism is Detected

How your professors/ instructors WILL catch you:

  • The level of the writing style and language is more advanced than the student usually writes
  • Student uses jargon or specialized terminology that is above the student's level of knowledge and education.
  • The quality of writing within the assignment is inconsistent.
  • The paper contains references from that are not included in the reference (Works Cited) page.
  • The paper's reference list (Works Cited) is incomplete.

University of Nebraska Medical Center Plagiarism LibGuide


USA professors/ instructors have access to this anti-plagiarism software.

Guide Creator

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Elizabeth Shepard
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