Plagiarism: So hard to spell, so easy to do

Image licensed as Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 by Nina Paley

Catchy title, right? Don’t get excited.  This is not a post describing how to be a better plagiarist.  I’d lose my librarian’s degree if I did that.  

Plagiarism always seems to be in the news.  Whether it is done by an actor, journalist, novelist, or politician (and then another politician, and another), appropriating intellectual property without authorization or credit is frowned upon, big time!  Even if you unintentionally present another’s ideas or words as your own, you may be labeled a plagiarist.   While the result of this label is sometimes more ethical than legal, as prosecuting the accused can be an ordeal,  being called a plagiarist can stop your career dead in its tracks.  This is particularly true in academia.

Touro College and University System takes plagiarism seriously, as evidenced by its Academic Integrity Policy.  It reads, in pertinent part, that veering from the path of academic integrity will lead to “appropriate sanctions, up to and including expulsion from the college community.”  With respect to plagiarism, the offenses detailed are as follows:

Intentional Plagiarism

  • Purchasing or copying another’s work outright
  • Cutting and pasting parts of another’s work without attribution
  • Reusing your own previous work without appropriate citation (also known as “self-plagiarism”)

Unintentional Plagiarism

  • Improperly citing sources (Yikes!)

So, how do they know?  Many faculty use SafeAssign, a brand of plagiarism detection software available through Blackboard.  It checks the originality of student uploaded work by comparing it to documents available on the Internet, Proquest, and all previous Blackboard submissions.   The more original, the less likely the document has been plagiarized.*   And, of course, there is always the low-tech detection method of the professor popping a paragraph of your paper into Google, and viewing the original document from which it was copied.  So easy, so elegant–so busted!

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The Library can assist you in maintaining your plagiarism-free status. Our Services for Students page has a section devoted to this, entitled “Plagiarism and How to Avoid It”.  It clearly spells out Touro’s Academic Integrity Policy, and offers a video, and guidelines for citing your sources.

*The text of this posting was examined using a free, online plagiarism checker.  It was shown to have 16 unique sentences, and a total of 88% originality. I swear I did not plagiarize the other 12%.


Contributed by: Carol Schapiro, Librarian, Midtown Library