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Special Research Guide about plagiarism, copyright & fair use, creative commons

Purpose of Guide

The Plagiarism Guide is a good starting point for information on academic integrity. We recommend that you contact your professor first when you have any doubts or questions on whether or not something is considered plagiarism. The librarian at the Research Desk and the staff at the Rudin Center are also good places to ask.

Plagiarism Essentials

What is Plagiarism?

Many people think of plagiarism as copying another's work, or borrowing someone else's original ideas. But terms like "copying" and "borrowing" can disguise the seriousness of the offense:

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, to "plagiarize" means

  • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own
  • to use (another's production) without crediting the source
  • to commit literary theft
  • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else's work and lying about it afterward.

But can words and ideas really be stolen?

According to U.S. law, the answer is yes. The expression of original ideas is considered intellectual property, and is protected by copyright laws, just like original inventions. Almost all forms of expression fall under copyright protection as long as they are recorded in some way (such as a book or a computer file).

All of the following are considered plagiarism:

  • turning in someone else's work as your own
  • copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
  • failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
  • giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
  • changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
  • copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not (see our section on "fair use" rules)

For more tips and videos, visit (

Types of Plagiarism

Anyone who has written or graded a paper knows that plagiarism is not always a black and white issue. The boundary between plagiarism and research is often unclear. Learning to recognize the various forms of plagiarism, especially the more ambiguous ones, is an important step towards effective prevention. Many people think of plagiarism as copying another's work or borrowing someone else's original ideas. But terms like "copying" and "borrowing" can disguise the seriousness of the offense.

Sources Not Cited 

  1. "The Ghost Writer"
    The writer turns in another's work, word-for-word, as his or her own.
  2. "The Photocopy"
    The writer copies significant portions of text straight from a single source, without alteration.
  3. "The Potluck Paper"
    The writer tries to disguise plagiarism by copying from several different sources, tweaking the sentences to make them fit together while retaining most of the original phrasing.
  4. "The Poor Disguise"
    Although the writer has retained the essential content of the source, he or she has altered the paper's appearance slightly by changing keywords and phrases.
  5. "The Labor of Laziness"
    The writer takes the time to paraphrase most of the paper from other sources and make it all fit together, instead of spending the same effort on original work.
  6. "The Self-Stealer"
    The writer "borrows" generously from his or her previous work, violating policies concerning the expectation of originality adopted by most academic institutions.

Sources Cited (But Still Plagiarized)

  1. "The Forgotten Footnote"
    The writer mentions an author's name for a source, but neglects to include specific information on the location of the material referenced. This often masks other forms of plagiarism by obscuring source locations.
  2. "The Misinformer"
    The writer provides inaccurate information regarding the sources, making it impossible to find them.
  3. "The Too-Perfect Paraphrase"
    The writer properly cites a source, but neglects to put in quotation marks text that has been copied word-for-word, or close to it. Although attributing the basic ideas to the source, the writer is falsely claiming original presentation and interpretation of the information.
  4. "The Resourceful Citer"
    The writer properly cites all sources, paraphrasing and using quotations appropriately. The catch? The paper contains almost no original work! It is sometimes difficult to spot this form of plagiarism because it looks like any other well-researched document.
  5. "The Perfect Crime"
    Well, we all know it doesn't exist. In this case, the writer properly quotes and cites sources in some places, but goes on to paraphrase other arguments from those sources without citation. This way, the writer tries to pass off the paraphrased material as his or her own analysis of the cited material.

from  (

First, do your own work - Begin your research project as early as possible. Keep up in class, do your library work and start your drafts in a timely fashion. Writing your paper will be so much easier if not put it off to the last minute. Procrastination is not a credible excuse; it's simply a bad choice. Performing under deadline pressures often pushes a student into cheating.

Second, establish your own voice - Easier said than done, but this is a key ingredient to your success and a primary difficulty all experienced writers have had to face and overcome. Learn as much as you can about your topic: it will help you develop a point-of-view from which to speak. The more you know, the easier it will be to avoid plagiarism.

Third, do your research carefully. Read the material closely. Knowing your topic well includes knowing what others have said. Strive for a mastery of your topic by introducing yourself intellectually to those who have already made a contribution, or are presently adding to the ongoing conversation. Keep an annotated bibliography of the source material you intend to use in your paper.

Fourth, keep copies of all your drafts - In review, you will notice your own point-of-view developing, changing and growing; a voice of authority all your own, emerging. It will stand in contrast to those of your sources. The difference between yours and their voices will go a long way toward helping you avoid plagiarism.

Finally, make sure that your document is properly constructed and your sources correctly cited. Remember, if the general concept, idea, quotation, statistic, fact, illustration, graph or data you intend to include is not common knowledge in the field of your investigation, a source must be cited. Not doing so will damage your credibility.

Share hard copies of "work-in-progress" with your instructor if the opportunity arises. As you move toward completion invite—and be receptive—to constructive suggestions. It can only make your paper better. This is where errors, especially citation errors, get pointed out and corrected. After a paper is handed in, such mistakes can be grounds for plagiarism charges.

Here is a checklist of questions to ask yourself before handing in your work:

  • Are all quotations surrounded by quotation marks?
  • Are single and double quotation marks properly used in quotations within quotations?
  • Are ellipses and brackets included in quotations where words have been deleted or comments added?
  • Are any quotations, paraphrases or summaries attributed to the wrong author? Are any missing an attribution completely?
  • Are your paraphrases worded significantly different than the original?
  • Are your summaries written in your own voice?
  • Are all your source citations included in your bibliography or sources cited page?
  • Are the titles, page numbers and dates in your documentation correct?

From Writing@CSU, an open-access, educational Web site supported by Colorado State University. Copyright © 1993-2010 Colorado State University and/or this site's authors, developers, and contributors.


This document provides a brief explanation of plagiarism to increase your awareness and understanding of it.  It is hoped that essential facts about plagiarism and its serious consequences will help you to avoid plagiarizing.

I. Plagiarism Defined:
The action or practice of taking someone else's work, idea, etc. and passing it off as one's own; literary theft.
[The Oxford English Dictionary]

II. Revised Iona Policy on ACADEMIC DISHONESTY

Cheating and plagiarism subvert both the purpose of the College and the experience students derive from being at Iona. They are offenses which harm the offender and the students who do not cheat.

The Iona community, therefore, pledges itself to do all in its power to prevent cheating and plagiarism, and to impose impartial sanctions upon those who harm themselves, their fellow students, and the entire community by academic dishonesty.

Sanction and Appeals: At the beginning of each semester, professors shall state their policy with regard to intellectual dishonesty on the syllabi and course requirement forms they distribute. This policy shall include the penalty to be imposed when cheating or plagiarism is discovered; penalties may include failure for a given assignment or failure in the course. Students who are given a failing grade as a result of cheating, plagiarism or academic dishonesty are not permitted to withdraw from the class. Faculty members will report all incidents of cheating and plagiarism to the dean. After the first offense the student will be required to complete an instructional program on intellectual dishonesty. After the second offense, the student will no longer qualify for a degree with honors, and the student may be suspended from the college. In any allegation of intellectual dishonesty, every effort will be made to ensure justice; in all cases, educational assistance rather than adversarial proceedings will be sought.

If, in conformity with this policy, a sanction is imposed, students may appeal first, to the professor who discovered the offense; second to the department chair; and third to the academic dean of the division involved. The decision of the academic dean is final. A student has the right to appeal the academic dean's decision to the provost if, and only if, the sanction involves a suspension from class or dismissal from the College. In such appeals, the decision of the provost is final.

III. Why is Plagiarism Wrong?

Plagiarism is a form of cheating, theft or stealing, and deceit.  When you plagiarize, you are:

  • Creating an opportunity for faculty and/or future employers to question your integrity and performance, which may lead to disciplinary actions.
  • Deceiving faculty who are evaluating your work. 
  • Depriving another author due credit for his or her work.
  • Showing disrespect for your peers who put effort into doing their own work.
  • Denying yourself the opportunity to learn and practice skills that will be needed in your future education and career. 
  • You are eliminating the opportunity to receive feedback on improving your skills and performance and preventing your growth as a student and lifelong learner.

IV. Examples of Plagiarism

  • -Passing off another's ideas or work as your own
  • Falsifyingpartsorallofcitation(s)
  • Copying, cutting, and pasting without citing the original source
  • Paraphrasing the words and ideas of another without crediting the source
  • Using image, audio, or video files without citing them
  • Buying a paper online and submitting it as your own
  • Recycling a paper someone else wrote
  • Giving your work (e.g., a paper or project) to someone else; you may also be penalized.

V. Misconceptions

Do not be misled by these common misconceptions:

Anything you find on the Internet is available for anyone to copy and paste; therefore, you don't have to cite it. (Wrong! Just as hard copy information needs to be cited, so does information found on the Internet.  It doesn’t matter if the information is in hard copy or electronic format.)
Anything you find on the Internet is considered common knowledge; therefore, you don't have to cite it.(Wrong again. As with print or hard copy, information on the Internet may or may not be common knowledge.)
Images, charts, and graphs in books can be photocopied; therefore, you don't have to cite them. (Untrue. Information written or produced by someone else must be cited, whether photocopied or not.)

VI. How to Avoid Plagiarism

Paraphrase correctly and cite your sources:

Synthesize a passage of text and describe it (the idea) in your own words
Restate or summarize someone else's words or ideas (that fall outside of common knowledge) and give credit to the author
Use quotation marks around a phrase or sentence that you use whether from a print source, electronic source or a Web site
Cite the source of your information, whether it's from a print source, electronic source or on the Internet, unless it's considered common  knowledge. Common knowledge is information that a majority of people either know or can find in a variety of sources, such as historic facts and geographic data.  Common knowledge does not need to be cited.

Examples of common knowledge:

  1. Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States.
  2. The U.S. entered World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
  3. Albany is the Capital of New York State.

Quoting, Paraphrasing and Summarizing
This guide helps you become more comfortable with the uses of and distinctions among quotations, paraphrases, and summaries. From the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL)

VII. Real Examples of Plagiarism outside of Iona

Following a widely-publicized report that Moorestown, New Jersey high school student Blair Hornstine had plagiarized material in articles she wrote for her local paper, the Harvard admissions office has rescinded her offer to attend Harvard in the fall, according to a source involved with the decision in July 2003.

Senator Joseph Biden was forced to withdraw from the 1988 Democratic Presidential nominations when it was revealed that he had failed a course in law school due to plagiarism. It was also shown that he had copied several campaign speeches, notably those of British Labour leader Neil Kinnock and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. In both cases he was essentially exonerated.

Two other famous people marring their career with instances of plagiarism were Doris Kearns Goodwin, distinguished author and historian, and author Alex Haley, whose plagiarism cost him over $500,000.

Unfortunately, one can find many more individuals who have disgraced themselves in their professional lives and careers. The best way to avoid this misfortune is to learn how to write and cite the words and ideas of others properly while in college.  It’s your responsibility.

VIII. Where to get help if you have questions about citing sources and plagiarism

  • Your Professor
  • Library website
  • Librarian at Reference Desk or Rudin Center in Amend Hall
  • F.I.R.S.T. tutorial chapter 7 “From Researching to Writing” (available Spring 2012)

Adapted from UCSanDiego Libraries  Additional information is available at

The Iona College Libraries, January 2014

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Paraphrasing: How to Avoid Plagiarism

Avoiding Plagiarism

Avoiding Plagiarism, resource published by Purdue University's Online Writing Lab (OWL)