David Price's Plagiarism FAQ
Plagiarism is the practice of appropriating the work of another
individual or individuals and attempting to pass it off as your
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
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.
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
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