Skip to main content
Plagiarism

Plagiarism: What Counts as Cheating?

By October 21, 2019April 6th, 2022No Comments

Cheating has become that much more ubiquitous with the explosive popularity of the internet across the past couple decades.  Countless students have been caught plagiarizing papers. However, there is a question as to what, exactly, qualifies as cheating.  Plagiarizing has the potential to result in a lengthy suspension or even permanent expulsion. Every single student should clearly understand what constitutes cheating.

Defining Plagiarism 

Plagiarism is the use of another person’s ideas or words in one’s work while attempting to pass them off as original work.  In fact, the definition of plagiarism even extends to self-plagiarism. If you re-use your marked work in an unauthorized manner, it is possible you will be accused of self-plagiarism.  However, the vast majority of plagiarism is applicable to the use of texts, words and ideas published by others on the web, in books and other materials.  Even using another student’s work or translating a text from another source without properly citing that source constitutes plagiarism.  

Understand Your Academic Institution’s Plagiarism Rules 

The rules pertaining to the type of content that can and cannot be used for guidance/inspiration differs by each unique academic institution as well as the course and course module in question.  Do not assume the rules from your middle school or high school education will prove applicable to your post-secondary institution. Pinpoint the exact rules that apply to the assignment or course you are currently working on.  Information pertaining to such rules should be made readily available through the student handbook, the individual class professor or the teaching assistant.  Read through the entirety of these rules before commencing work on any particular project. The bottom line is it is your responsibility as a student to understand your academic institution’s nuanced plagiarism rules.

How to Avoid Plagiarism 

Aside from learning about your academic institution’s idiosyncratic plagiarism rules, you should also get into the habit of stating sources used.  When in doubt, list more sources than you assume are necessary. Always put quotation marks around portions of text taken from a source. Even if you are quoting an essay or another work you created, you should still use quotation marks and cite your own work as your source.

You can avoid accusations of plagiarism by refusing to use another student’s work or anyone else’s work as a model for your own work.  In fact, it is even risky to use another’s work as inspiration when completing your own essays, summaries and other work. Something as subtle as simply re-wording parts of text used from the original when creating your own work dramatically hikes the chances of a plagiarism accusation. 

Words and Ideas Really can be Stolen 

United States law states it is possible for ideas and words to be stolen.  The expression of an original idea constitutes intellectual property and therefore, is protected by copyright laws.  This means one’s original ideas are similar to original inventions. Nearly every form of expression falls under the umbrella of copyright protection.  However, the form of expression in question must be recorded in some manner, be it in the form of a book, website, computer file, etc.

Specific Examples of Plagiarism

If you turn in another person’s work and claim it is your own, you have plagiarized.  Furthermore, copying ideas or words from another source without citing those sources constitutes plagiarism.  The failure to put quotes in quotation marks also constitutes plagiarism. Even altering the order of words constitutes plagiarism if the source’s sentence structure is copied without providing the proper credit.  In fact, it is possible to be found guilty of plagiarism when providing false information about the source of a string of words or source of a quotation used in one’s work.  

Accused of Plagiarism?  You Deserve a Strategic Legal Defense

If you are accused of plagiarism, do not assume you will be suspended or expelled.  Contact our student defense attorney as soon as possible so we can review your case and tailor a defense to counter the specific allegations made against you. 

These materials have been prepared by Cohen Seglias for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.

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.

More posts by Shan Wu
Skip to content