Plagiarism is widely accepted in high schools. But it is explicitly against USF’s rules.  Perhaps, though, some students do not understand exactly what plagiarism is.  So I will explain.

Types of Plagiarism
(1) Word-for-word.  Many people assume they can copy a sentence from a writer without including the words in quotation marks and giving a citation. Wrong!  Exactly replicating another’s words is plagiarism, even if it is only a sentence—or even a long phrase.  Of course someone might stumble on the same sentence by chance, so it would be difficult to prove that someone has plagiarized if they copied only a single sentence.  But once someone has copied several consecutive sentences, the case is closed

(2) Rephrasing.  “Aha,” someone might say, “if plagiarism is copying whole sentences word for word, I will not plagiarize if I rephrase the author.”  Wrong!  Merely changing a few words is still plagiarism.  Consider the following: 


The problem, in its most general form, is this.  As moral agents, we cannot play favorites--at least, not according to the conception of morality as impartiality.  But as parents, we do play favorites.  Parental love is partial through and through.  And we think there is nothing wrong with this; in fact, we normally think there is something wrong with the parent who is not deeply partial where his own children are concerned.  Therefore, it would seem, one or the other of these conceptions has to be modified or abandoned.


The general problem is that moral agents cannot play favorites, at least according to the principle of impartiality.  Nonetheless, we parents do play favorites.  Parental love is completely partial.  We think this is morally acceptable.  In fact, we think there is something objectionable about the parent who is not partial toward his own children.  Therefore, it seems one of these conceptions must be modified or rejected

This revised version is still plagiarism.  Of course if the student had acknowledged that she was paraphrasing the author, and had given an appropriate citation (see below), then that would not be plagiarism.  However, extensive paraphrasing, even in an expository paper, is still plagiarism.



(3) Using someone’s ideas, even if not their words.  If you use someone else’s ideas, even if not their words, and you do not give an appropriate citation, then you have plagiarized.  For example, if you discuss the views of an historical figure I have no reason to think you have read, if you cite detailed historical or geographical information, or if you make complex statistical claims, you must give me the source of this information.  The source should not be just from the internet, unless you have reason to think that the web site is both authoritative and fair.

 Why Shouldn’t I Plagiarize?
1.       It undercuts the aims of education.  If you plagiarize you will not learn the skills you should learn—you are merely copying someone else’s words and ideas.
2.       It is theft.  And all theft is wrong, whether it is theft of an idea or an object.
3.       You harm other students. By plagiarizing you make professors more suspicious of students.  This encourages them to make assignments that are plagiarism-proof rather than ones that are educationally sound.
4.       You will get caught.  I am very good at spotting plagiarism, and tenacious at gathering evidence to establish that a student plagiarized.  Think about it a minute: if you plagiarize from a good source—one that is likely to help your grade—the prof will likely know (or can easily find) the source.  And if your writing style drastically changes from sentence to sentence or from paper to exam, then even a causal observer will notice.  To plagiarize well—to plagiarize in a way that is likely to land you a decent grade and minimize the chance that you are caught—you would have to know the material so well, that it would be easier—and more educationally beneficial—to write the essay yourself.

If you use someone else’s explicit words or their ideas, you should give an appropriate citation.   That is, you should give: (a) title of the article or book, (b) if an article, the title of book or journal in which it appears, (c) date of publication, (d) if a book, the publisher and place of publication, and (e) the page number on which the quotation or idea appears, or (f) a proper (and workable) URL.

I am not concerned about the form of citation, although it may be wise to use a standard form, e.g., MLA..

Consequences of Plagiarism
If you plagiarize, you submit someone else's work as if it were your own.  Obviously, then, you did not complete the assignment.  Since you can successfully complete a course only if you complete all assignments, then you fail the course.  If the plagiarism is especially egregious, you will receive an 'FF' grade (which means that you cannot retake the course).  No excuses.  No exceptions.

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