David Price's Plagiarism FAQjust us
What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the practice of appropriating the work of another individual or individuals and attempting to pass it off as your own work.

Where does the word "plagiarism" come from?

I like this question. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (which last time I checked, you could still get one for joining and quitting the Book of the Month Club) plagiarism is derived from the Latin plagairius the term for an individual who steals the child or slave of another--in other words: a kidnapper.

Is Plagiarism a good thing?

No. Plagiarism is a bad thing. It is wrong. It is one of the few things that you can do as a student in my classes that will make me mad. Scholars young and old should be concerned with where things come from and how we know things-plagiarism by its very nature subverts this central academic goal. All scholars need to work on their writing skills and for obvious reasons plagiarism usually involves the avoidance of writing. Plagiarism is anti-scholarship in one of its worst forms. If you try and pass off plagiarized work in one of my classes you will probably get caught (ask around) and neither of us will be happy.

Can someone accidentally commit plagiarism?

Yes, it is possible, but plagiarism is plagiarism and it does not matter whether it is accidental or intentional. As a writer you need to be careful to never accidentally engage in plagiarism by keeping track of what you have or haven't written. It is your responsibility to represent the words of others either by employing quotation marks, or using indented paragraphs for quotations generally three sentences or longer. If you aren't sure you are using quotation marks correctly I am always happy to help show you how to use them properly.

Is it easy to plagiarize?

Oh yes. It is very easy. If it hasn't already occurred to you, think about how easy it would be to cut and paste anything off of the Internet into your favorite word processing program and then add your name to the top and pass it off as your own work. We all know people who have retyped text from journals, textbooks and magazines and then passed it off as their own work. Many students have had great success doing this with High School writing assignments, but college is a different story. There are of course many paper mills out there that will sell you someone else's term paper, some of these are to be found in the back of magazines (check Rolling Stone) or on the Internet (Try URLs http://www.termpaperwarehouse.com/tpw/cultureinternational.html ; http://www.cheater.com ; http://www.execpc.com/~hppapers/index.html ). These paper mills vary in price and consistently produce mediocre to poor quality papers that are easily identified by your professors. In some cases criminal charges have been filed against students attempting to use these services.

Does this mean that I can't just go through the old papers retained and filed by my fraternity or sorority and reuse portions of them for a class assignment?

Yes, that is exactly what this means.

But how could I possibly get caught plagiarizing?

That would be telling.

Are there penalties if a student gets caught committing plagiarism in one of your classes?

Why yes, as a matter of fact there are.

  1. Anytime a student is caught plagiarizing in one of my classes they automatically receive a grade of "F" for the class and a report documenting the incident is placed in their permanent academic file.
  2. The student will be expelled from my class.
  3. I will write a letter to the Dean of Academic Affairs, the Dean of Students, and the student's advisor recommending that he/she be expelled from St. Martin's College.
  4. If the source material has a copyright, then I will send a copy of the student's paper to the holder of said copyright so that they can take whatever action they wish.
  5. The student will not be happy.

Does the fact that you are making us read this really scary FAQ on the first day of class mean that you are a mean teacher who is going to keep us in a perpetual state of fear throughout the semester?

No it does not. Even without this FAQ I would not expect students in this class to plagiarize any assignments. The real reason why I am handing this out to everyone is that when past students have been busted for plagiarism the first thing that the administration asked was, "Did you make it clear in your syllabus what plagiarism is and that it would not be acceptable in your class?" This FAQ is supposed to take care of all that. Think of this FAQ as the scholastic equivalent of those bizarre fine-printed stickers that are stuck onto ladders telling potential ladder climbers all the dangerous things they should never do with the ladder ("DANGER: Never lean this ladder against high tension powerlines"; "DANGER: This ladder was not intended to be used as a transportation device" ; "DANGER: Never climb this ladder while resting its base upon frozen cow pies on a cold sunny day"). I trust you, and assume that you are here to learn and that you are not a plagiarist.

Email me comments or more questions for the FAQ