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Ethics & plagiarism: What Is Plagiarism?

This guide was originally created by Erich Heintzelman.

Plagiarism Defined

Plagiarism is a term derived from the Latin word plagiarius (kidnapper).  Webster's dictionary defines to plagiarize as: "to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own : use (another's production) without crediting the source."

Plagiarism has existed throughout history.  Shakespeare, Coledridge, Martin Luther King Jr., and others have been convincingly accused of plagiarism in their careers.  In the digital world we live in today, the lines between plagiarism and legitimate research often become blurred and easily confused. This guide is designed to help increase awareness of what plagiarism is in academic research and how to avoid it.

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Ethics & Plagiarism


Plagiarism is a question of right or wrong behavior and it falls under normative ethics. Higher education is governed by Academic Honesty and most professional fields have a Code Of Ethics that includes a section on plagiarism.

The Valencia College Student Code of Conduct prohibits Academic Dishonesty and addresses the possible consequences of submitting work that is not your own.

Paraphrasing tools and other plagiarism tools are prohibited in this class.

Student Perceptions

The Internet and technology is a part of most students lives, and readily available information in a digital format is often considered "fair game".  For example, does a web page that has no author have to be credited in a research paper?  Are entries in Wikipedia, written by a community of users, considered common knowledge and thus do not have to be cited?

The following New York Times article explains how student perceptions often lead to plagiarism:

 Plagiarism Lines Blur For Students In Digital Age

Subject Guide

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Jenna Settles
Osceola Campus