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All About Plagiarism: DC Colleges and Universities

By October 10, 2022August 15th, 2023No Comments

The discussion of plagiarism has increased over the decades. As the access to information has exponentially grown, so has the number of college plagiarism cases.

Rutgers Business School conducted a survey that found about 40 % of undergraduate students admitted to borrowing a few sentences from other sources, and that 7% of students admitted to completely copying content without any citation.

Clearly, the easily accessible information is too tempting for some students not to take advantage of. Professor Heinz Fenkl of SUNY New Paltz says that there is a major difference over the past decade with web-related plagiarism, of which most is classified as unintentional plagiarism.

But what happens if your school catches you plagiarizing – or accuses you of it? You’ll need the help of an experienced DC student defense attorney to ensure your education stays on track.

What is considered plagiarism?

Merriam-Webster defines plagiarism as “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own” or to “use (another’s production) without crediting the source.”

There are a lot of plagiarism examples, including direct copy and pasting, paraphrasing, and papers from online sources and from other students. Students can be charged with plagiarism by their school, even if they did not intend to plagiarize. And there can be serious consequences for plagiarizing.

Plagiarizing on purpose is wrong, and students receive punishment when they’re caught stealing someone else’s work. However, accidental plagiarism does happen and can be avoided.

Professor Fenkl says that most students tend to skip over their plagiarism standards on the syllabus. Therefore, careless or unintentional plagiarism from PDF documents or forgotten quotation marks, footnotes, or bibliographies are more apparent. Fenkl also says that a lot of class reading is done online, so there is a lot of copying and pasting from the web to remember quotes. Before the web, people had to write quotes down by hand, but now it is easier to forget what was a quote and what was not.

How to avoid accidentally plagiarizing

A helpful tip to avoid accidentally stealing someone else’s work is to plan out your papers in advance. Do not wait until the night before to write a research paper. If stress and no sleep are factors, there is a higher chance of accidentally plagiarizing a paper.

Professor Fenkl also notes a very common mistake nowadays regarding incorrect citations and bibliographies. Since there are now websites that will generate citations for students, students do not learn how to properly cite a source. Therefore, students do not know when citations are incorrect. In order to ensure that students do not accidentally plagiarize, students need to study citation styles.

The most common style that students are required to learn is MLA citation. There is also commonly used Chicago and APA formatting; however, students should use the style of formatting that their professor requires. There are information books and online resources about citations that students should start using on their first day of freshman year.

What happens if I’m accused of plagiarism?

More than ever, there is a system trying to detect plagiarism in colleges. Systems like Turnitin, Quetext, Dupli Checker, Copyleaks, and PaperRater compare millions of websites with the submission by the student and then highlight sections that are similar to other content on the internet. This report is then sent to the professor who then uses his or her discretion to charge a student with plagiarism or not.

Most, if not all universities explicitly prohibit plagiarism in their code of student conduct and consider it a severe violation of the academic honor code.

These consequences depend on a student’s university, but usually, they look like the following:

  • failure of the assignment,
  • failure of the course, 
  • suspension,
  • limited extracurricular activities,
  • expulsion from college

Obviously, no one wants to be in this situation. That is why it is imperative to educate yourself on citation techniques and correct information. 

If you are accused of a university conduct code violation and you believe your student rights and academic record are in jeopardy, it is important to contact a defense attorney who has decades of experience in working with college students accused of plagiarism to help you navigate your defense in a university disciplinary hearing.

Contact DC Student Defense if you’ve been accused of plagiarism

It is imperative that if a student is accused of plagiarizing that they retain a qualified lawyer. Proving someone’s innocence in plagiarism cases requires knowledge and research that only an experienced lawyer can provide. Thankfully, DC Student Defense is here to help. It is much wiser to involve professional help at the beginning – rather than waiting until it’s too late.

Shan Wu

Author Shan Wu

Shan’s professional and personal background gives him a unique understanding of academic institutions and the criminal justice system. A former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., he is at home in D.C. Courts and very familiar with all of the Washington, D.C. law enforcement agencies, especially the Metropolitan Police Department. His parents were university professors so he grew up in a university environment. He understands the mindset of academic institutions. As a prosecutor, he supervised in the misdemeanor crime section. This is the section of the Washington, D.C. prosecutor’s office that handles most college student cases. His understanding of charging decisions and how judges view these cases is invaluable to his student clients and their families. Shan served as a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for over ten years. During his tenure there, now Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. appointed him to supervisory positions in the Misdemeanor Trial Section and also in a police corruption task force. His outstanding legal work in the government was recognized through numerous Special Achievement Awards from the Justice Department as well as awards conveyed by law enforcement agencies and community groups. From 1999-2000, Shan served as Counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno, advising her on criminal and civil investigations, E-Gov, E-Commerce (electronic signatures, internet gambling, internet telephony, privacy & public access issues in electronic court filings), congressional oversight, and legislative review. His responsibilities included serving as liaison to the FBI, DEA, Criminal Division, Executive Office of United States Attorneys, National Institute of Justice, and White House Counsel’s Office. Shan serves on the D.C. Bar Association’s Hearing Committee of the Board on Professional Responsibility and is a past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association for the Greater Washington, D.C. area. He is a 1988 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, where he graduated Order of the Barristers, edited two law reviews, and was Co-Director of the Moot Court Program. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from Vassar College as well as a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Following law school, he clerked for the late Hon. Jerry Buchmeyer, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and the late Eugene Wright, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and Connecticut.

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