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Plagiarism

  1. What is plagiarism?
  2. What about Internet sources? Isn't that material available to everyone?
  3. What is the difference between collaboration with another student and plagiarism?  Can I submit my own independent work for different classes?
  4. Why is plagiarism prohibited in academic work? Do the same rules apply in the workplace?
  5. Why do instructors take plagiarism so seriously?
  6. Why do instructors ask me to cite other sources?
  7. How can I do my best to avoid plagiarism in my writing style?
  8. How can I make sure that I follow proper citation formats?
  9. What if I just run out of time to complete an assignment?
  10. What is the difference between acceptable and unacceptable paraphrasing?
  11. Sources cited.

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is generally defined as "present[ing] the ideas or words of another as one's own." (Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 378) While people often focus on unattributed direct quotation of material, plagiarism also includes making minor changes in wording or sentence structure that repeats essentially the same concept as the original statement. Words, charts, drawings, computer programs or any other creative work can be plagiarized. Undisputed common knowledge can be cited without attribution.

Cal Poly's Campus Administrative Manual 684.3 states: "Plagiarism is defined as the act of using the ideas or work of another person or persons as if they were one's own without giving proper credit to the source. Such an act is not plagiarism if it is ascertained that the ideas were arrived through independent reasoning or logic or where the thought or idea is common knowledge. Acknowledgement of an original author or source must be made through appropriate references; i.e., quotation marks, footnotes, or commentary. Examples of plagiarism include, but are not limited to the following: the submission of a work, either in part or in whole completed by another; failure to give credit for ideas, statements, facts or conclusions which rightfully belong to another; failure to use quotation marks when quoting directly from another, whether it be a paragraph, a sentence, or even a part thereof; close and lengthy paraphrasing of another's writing without credit or originality; use of another's project or programs or part thereof without giving credit."

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What about Internet sources? Isn't that material available to everyone?

The same basic principles apply to internet material. Someone created the data regardless of the form of its publication. The internet provides temptation along with easy access to information. While doing research, if students drop and drag text, they might commingle the internet material with their own original work. Be sure to cite internet sources clearly when taking notes and in the final assignment and use appropriate citation form.

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What is the difference between collaboration with another student and plagiarism? Can I submit my own independent work for different classes?

Instructors often encourage teamwork in the classroom. Nevertheless, it is expected that all work submitted by a student is independent and original unless collaboration is authorized in the syllabus. Plagiarism extends beyond reusing a paper written by another student or a paper you wrote for another class. Informal collaboration becomes plagiarism if students work together on an assignment so closely that they repeat essentially the same detailed ideas, sentence structure or paragraph structure on a written assignment.

Even independent work must be created specifically for every course. It can be considered plagiarism if you submit the same project to multiple instructors as a unique creation. You must cite a project produced for another class just as you would cite any other source. If similar topics are assigned in different classes, you can talk to the instructor about integrating previous work into the current project.    

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Why is plagiarism prohibited in academic work? Do the same rules apply in the workplace?

Failure to credit sources violates the Student Code of Conduct and could result in sanctions imposed by the course instructor as well as the university. Plagiarism has serious consequences in professional settings. The reputations of newspapers that have included plagiarized or inaccurate reports have been damaged (Regret the Error). Companies that appropriate products or innovations are targets for lawsuits that can damage the financial stability of the organization (Patent Portfolio Analysis).

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Why do instructors take plagiarism so seriously?

Creativity is essential to the successful professional. The uncertain work environment of the future, rapid political change and unimagined technical innovations require that students be able to analyze and evaluate new data throughout their careers. Students cannot be content to cite only the information they learned prior to graduation. Synthesizing material and evaluating perspectives in class assignments provides training that will help students adapt to unforeseeable intellectual demands throughout their careers.

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Why do instructors ask me to cite other sources?

Citing other sources establishes the student's membership in the community of scholars. These sources provide starting points for the student's own creative work and give the reader some resources for further investigation. Even Ralph Waldo Emerson, a champion of individualism, conceded, "By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight, we all quote," (Bartleby's Quotations).

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How can I do my best to avoid plagiarism in my writing style?

If a student creates a central idea as the basis of the assignment, all the material can support that idea. Even when summarizing a book or background data, select the points that help develop that idea. Tutoring assistance is available through the Cal Poly Writing Skills Program.

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How can I make sure that I follow proper citation formats?

Cal Poly Library has model citation examples for MLA, APA, CBE, and Turabian formats. Ask the instructor about the correct format for the specific class. Students should not let fear of making a mistake in the format prevent them from citing their sources. It is better to make a punctuation error than to plagiarize.

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What if I just run out of time to complete an assignment?

Students must learn to balance many responsibilities. If their time management skills fail them, students should speak with their instructors to determine possible options. Plagiarism will create additional problems rather than fix them.

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What is the difference between acceptable and unacceptable paraphrasing?

The following illustrates original material with examples of acceptable and unacceptable paraphrasing and citation.

Original Text:

Pepsi's Challenge
"In the early 1980s, the Coca-Cola Industry was profoundly nervous about its future. Once, Coke had been far and away the dominant soft drink in the world. But Pepsi had been steadily chipping away at Coke's lead. In 1972, 18 percent of soft drink users said they drank Coke exclusively, compared with 4 percent who called themselves exclusive Pepsi drinkers. By the early 1980s, Coke had dropped to 12 percent and Pepsi had risen to 11 percent-and this despite the fact that Coke was much more widely available than Pepsi and spending at least $100 million more on advertising per year" (Gladwell 155-156).

Gladwell, Malcolm. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Little, Brown, and
Company: New York, 2005.

Proper Paraphrase requiring citation:

As reported in Blink, Coke, in the beginning, was considered to be the most popular soda in the world. However Coke's consumer demand began to disappear with the increased popularity of Pepsi. This led to serious concerns regarding the Coca Cola Industry's continued business success. In 1972, Coke was the exclusive choice of 18 percent of soda drinkers, while 4 percent chose only Pepsi. About a decade later these percentages shifted; only 12 percent of soda drinkers selected Coke, while 11 percent of soda drinkers decided to drink Pepsi. Coke had additional concerns because this decrease in popularity occurred while their product was significantly more available to people than Pepsi and annually the company spent at least $100 million more on advertising (Gladwell 2005).

Proper Citation of Partial Quotation:

In the early 1980s Coke saw dangerous erosion in its market position. By 1982, according to Gladwell, "Coke had dropped to 12 percent and Pepsi had risen to 11 percent-and this despite the fact that Coke was much more widely available than Pepsi and spending at least $100 million more on advertising per year" (156).

Improper quotation (quotation marks and attribution omitted):

In the early 1980s, the Coca-Cola Industry was profoundly nervous about its future. Once, Coke had been far and away the dominant soft drink in the world. But Pepsi had been steadily chipping away at Coke's lead. In 1972, 18 percent of soft drink users said they drank Coke exclusively, compared with 4 percent who called themselves exclusive Pepsi drinkers. By the early 1980s, Coke had dropped to 12 percent and Pepsi had risen to 11 percent-and this despite the fact that Coke was much more widely available than Pepsi and spending at least $100 million more on advertising per year.

Improper Paraphrase (Ideas are identical even if the wording has been modified and citation is omitted):

Once, Coke had been the dominant soft drink in the world. In 1972, 18 percent of soft drink users said they drank Coke exclusively, compared with 4 percent who called themselves exclusive Pepsi drinkers. In the early 1980s, the Coca-Cola Industry was nervous about its future because Pepsi had been steadily chipping away at Coke's lead. Coke had dropped to 12 percent and Pepsi had risen to 11 percent-and this despite the fact that Coke was much more widely available than Pepsi and spending at least $100 million more on advertising per year.

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Sources cited.

Bartleby's Quotations. 2005. 7 Nov. 2007. http://www.bartleby.com/100/420.82.html.

Gladwell, Malcolm. Blink The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Little, Brown, and
Company: New York, 2005.

Patent Portfolio Analysis. 2007. Teklicon, Inc. 7 Nov. 2007.
http://www.teklicon.com/patent.shtml.

"Plagiarism." The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. 2005.

Regret the Error. Ed. Craig Silverman. 2006. 7 Feb. 2007.
http://www.regrettheerror.com/;

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