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Avoiding Plagiarism: Understanding Plagiarism

Intentional vs. Accidental Plagiarism

Some instances of plagiarism are intentional - the student knows they are breaking the Academic Honor Code with their actions. However, many times, students plagiarize on accident. 

Examples of intentional and accidental plagiarism:

Intentional Plagiarism Accidental Plagiarism
Evan doesn't have time to write his paper, and he's panicking because he can't afford to lose his scholarship. He finds a website where he can buy a custom paper. He promises it'll just be this once. Siena used a direct quote in her paper, including the citation. However, her professor wants to talk to her about possible plagiarism because she did not use quotation marks around the direct quote.
Avery found a blog post that says exactly what they want to say in their paper. It's not a well-known blogger, so they figure they won't get caught if they just pretend it's their original words. Chris referenced the website he cited in the text of his paper, but he did not include a full citation in his bibliography/works cited.
Stephanie has been sick for 2 weeks, and she has a paper due in a few days. Her roommate, Jenn, feels bad for her and offers to write her paper. When citing her sources, Madison only included the authors' names (omitting the titles of articles/books, web addresses, etc.).

 

Plagiarizing Yourself

Submitting a paper you wrote for another class is plagiarism. You can only reuse a paper if you have your professor's permission. Most professors will not let you simply resubmit a paper from a previous class; however, they may work with you to expand upon your original paper in place of writing a whole new paper.

Situations that lead to students plagiarizing (and how to avoid them)

In a rush or panic

Whether due to procrastination or life happening, we all sometimes find ourselves in a rush or panic to complete an assignment or task. 

When this happens, try these tips:

  • COMMUNICATE: Ask your professor for an extension. If you have a 'life happening' reason, explain your situation and provide documentation if possible. Sure, your professor may say 'no,' but it only takes a few minutes to (politely) ask. Even if your grade may be reduced for a late submission, it will likely be better than if you turned in rushed, incomplete, or plagiarized work.
  • DO YOUR BEST, FORGET THE REST: Do what you can as well as you can - turning in an incomplete assignment is preferable to turning in a plagiarized assignment.
  • SEEK HELP: If you need sources for your assignment, work with a librarian. Librarians will help you efficiently find quality, relevant sources, which will save you time.

Of course, planning ahead so that you do not find yourself in a rush or panic is best. Eckerd has many free resources to help:

  • Center for Academic Excellence: Make an appointment with an academic coach to learn simple but effective study, time management and test-taking strategies. Be sure to check out the workshops on everything from surviving midterms to useful smartphone apps.
  • Peer Mentoring: Peer mentors help incoming students transition to Eckerd College. A peer mentor is assigned to each section of Autumn Term, and the peer mentors work closely with the Bevan Center staff and faculty to help incoming students develop the academic skills they need to be successful and to find their niches among the Eckerd community.
  • Writing Center: Open 24 hours a week, the Center is staffed by student consultants who can walk you through the writing process, from brainstorming to proofreading. The Center has 19 Macs for student use.
  • Peer Tutoring: Peer tutoring is available in many subjects, including Behavioral Sciences, Communication, Computer Science, Foreign Language, Natural Sciences and Quantitative Sciences/Mathematics.

Don't want to put in the time or effort

There are many reasons you may feel unmotivated to put in the time or effort to complete an assignment, including:

  • Mental health struggles often impact motivation and interest. Know that you are not alone. Counseling services are provided free of charge to all students currently enrolled in credit courses at Eckerd College.
  • People who are neurodiverse often have unique and specific ways in which their motivation and interest are activated. Counseling services can help you learn ways to harness the power of your brain to succeed. These services are provided free of charge to all students currently enrolled in credit courses at Eckerd College. 
  • Lack of interest in the material
    • If you can select your own topic for your paper/assignment, take the time upfront to discover a topic that interests you. Review the syllabus, visit your professor during office hours to discuss ideas (professors love this!), brainstorm with your classmates or friends, or meet with a librarian (librarians love this!). 
    • Sometimes, a particular course or assignment simply does not hold your interest. We've all been there. Try to incentivize yourself by offering a reward for completing the paper/assignment (or stages of the paper/assignment for larger projects). Reward ideas include: a sweet treat, a fun activity with friends, or an afternoon/day of rest.

Lack of confidence in your own ideas

Many college students are hesitant to express ideas in their own words because they feel that they are not qualified - after all, journal articles are written by experts, so who are you, a First Year Student, to interpret experts' ideas or add your own to the conversation? 

As a college student, you are learning how to be a scholar. The best way to learn is by doing - when you incorporate experts' ideas into your own, you are practicing at participating in the scholarly conversation. As you practice more, you will build confidence.


Don't know how to properly cite

Many cases of plagiarism are unintentional, or accidental, because students do not know how to properly cite their sources.