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Plagiarism Tutorial: What is Plagiarism?

Definitions of Plagiarism

Gordon's Definition of Plagiarism
Plagiarism is presenting another person’s words, work or opinions as one’s own (from the Gordon College Student Handbook).

University of Southern Mississippi's Definition of Plagiarism
Plagiarism is the act of taking another person's writing, conversation, song, or even idea and passing it off as your own. This includes information from web pages, books, songs, television shows, email messages, interviews, articles, artworks or any other medium (USM, Plagiarism Tutorial). 

The Main Idea
Whenever you take the work - words or ideas - of another without giving them proper credit in the for of citations you are plagiarism. To avoid plagiarism, remember that whenever you "paraphrase, summarize, or take words, phrases, or sentences from another person's work" (USM, Plagiarism Tutorial), you must cite them! Citing sources is necessary when writing papers, preparing presentations, speeches, etc.

Gordon's Classification of Plagiarism

The following statements about the three classifications of plagiarism is taking directly from the Gordon College Student Handbook. Please see the Handbook for more details on academic consequences and faculty response to plagiarism.

The College recognizes that not all forms of plagiarism are the same and, as such, has adopted the following classifications:

Description: This type of plagiarism is often the result of a student’s limited knowledge of the conventions of academic writing; it does not stem from a deliberate intent to deceive but rather from errors of form or minor appropriations of another’s work. Examples include the use of short but distinctive phrases without citation, substitution of synonyms into a sentence of similar form and meaning to the original author’s, or copying a source’s line of logic or argument.
Penalty: The faculty member will determine the appropriate penalty at his or her discretion, bearing in mind that the chief objective is to educate the student to the expectations of academic writing. A likely response is to require the student to re-write the assignment; it is left to the faculty member to decide whether or not any grade penalty is necessary.

Description: This type of plagiarism is more extensive and more serious than those instances which fall into the first category. In this case, sentences or paragraphs from other sources are inserted verbatim into the assignment without any citation, and it is reasonable to expect that the student should have known better than to do so.
Penalty: In most instances, the instructor will issue a grade penalty on the assignment in question, whether a failing grade for the assignment or an opportunity to redo the assignment for a reduced grade. The instructor should also consider the magnitude of the assignment (e.g. homework vs. final exam) in determining the penalty.

Description: This type of plagiarism constitutes clear academic dishonesty, as there is an obvious intent to appropriate someone else’s work and to deceive the instructor. The difference between moderate and substantial plagiarism is largely one of extent. Examples of substantial plagiarism include submitting someone else’s complete work as one’s own, submitting an assignment that has been purchased online, or reusing an assignment or a portion of an assignment that has been previously submitted for another course without explicit permission to do so.
Penalty: As with moderate plagiarism, the magnitude of the assignment might also be a consideration in determining the penalty. In most cases, the instructor will issue a failing grade for the course and require the student to meet with the Associate Dean/Registrar to discuss the incident. Any subsequent offense may result in expulsion from the College at the discretion of the provost. 

The Punishable Perils of Plagiarism

Huseman D'Annunzio, M. [TED-Ed]. (2013, June 14). The punishable perils of plagiarism. [Video file]. Retrieved from

This TEDEd video is a lesson created by Melissa Huseman D'Annunzio and animated by Hache Rodriguez. This video shows some of the threats of plagiarism by imaging what if there was a Department of Plagiarism Investigation.

Two Common Questions

  1. What is common knowledge and do I need to cite it?
    There is certain knowledge that is considered common knowledge: knowledge that the average educated reader knows to be true without having to look it up. This is often information contained in common reference books, such as dates, facts, names, and more. An example of Common Knowledge is: the moon orbits the Earth. 
  2. Is it possible to plagiarize myself?
    Absolutely. Including text/information from a paper or presentation you have already turned in or produced is considered plagiarism. If you are going to reuse material from your past works, you must cite yourself!