What is Plagiarism?

Many people think of plagiarism as copying another’s work, or borrowing someone else’s original ideas. But terms like “copying” and “borrowing” can disguise the seriousness of the offense:

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.

But can words and ideas really be stolen?

According to U.S. law, the answer is yes. The expression of original ideas is considered intellectual property, and is protected by copyright laws, just like original inventions. Almost all forms of expression fall under copyright protection as long as they are recorded in some way (such as a book or a computer file).

All of the following are considered plagiarism:

* turning in someone else’s work as your own
* copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
* failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
* giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
* changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
* copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not (see our section on “fair use” rules)

Most cases of plagiarism can be avoided, however, by citing sources. Simply acknowledging that certain material has been borrowed, and providing your audience with the information necessary to find that source, is usually enough to prevent plagiarism. Plagiarism is a factor in writings of all types whether it be on the internet or in printed material. All authors need to be aware of plagiarism and its financial and legal consequences. For example, if someone had plagiarized one of the Ken Fisher books about Fisher Investments there would be serious implications on that persons integrity as an investor and as an author and could potentially be harmful to their market value as well.  See our section on citation for more information on how to cite sources properly.

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  1. Anais says:

    @Irony, thy name is Dervaes | Seasons in the Soil: These last few weeks, the blogosphere and certain media outlets have been full of unfounded and false reports that have led to a smear campaign against members of our family. Unfortunately, there is much published misinformation, but one valid point was bought to my attention.

    Back in 2008, I did some research about Victory Gardens for a post used on this Little Homestead in the City site and our sister site Freedom Gardens. I used three sources, citing two but omitting to credit one of the paragraphs (the content was that of a timeline and it was never my intention to claim these words as my own). Yet a mistake was made and for that I am sorry. See http://freedomgardens.org/abou…..movements/

    Right after the error was pointed out last week, I edited the post by adding the proper quotation formatting and source citation. I appreciated the chance to correct my mistake and rectify the inadvertent oversight.
    Although, the oversight was not brought to my attention in a private and direct manner, correction is correction & there is always room for improvement so I hope strive to be more careful making sure I check for omissions, etc in the future.

    Thank you allowing me to correct this mistake.

    Anais Dervaes