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Understanding Plagiarism & Other Information Ethics Issues
As a student, you are responsible for using the materials you collect and incorporate in your assignments and research papers in an ethical manner. This means that you must:
  • Respect the rights of authors by crediting the original sources for all information you use to write your paper or support your statements
  • Do your own research and writing

This guide illustrates plagiarism and other related information ethics issues.



Plagiarism is a very serious offense. According to the Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary , the definition of plagiarize is "to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own without crediting the source." Many assume that plagiarism is simply copying a written passage word for word. However, plagiarism may also include using others' ideas, thoughts, or conversation in your own paper without citing them; paraphrasing or summarizing other people's work without citing them; or copying images or text from the Web. University faculty have access to tools that can easily help them find and verify information that they may suspect as being plagiarized.

There are several different types of plagiarism.

  • The most obvious form of plagiarism is direct plagiarism , or copying something word for word.
  • Sometimes students plagiarize accidentally; this is commonly known as accidental or unintentional plagiarism . This happens when they don't intend to plagiarize, but fail to cite sources correctly or copy too much of the source's original wording while trying to paraphrase or summarize the passage. Even when you summarize something in your own words, you must still cite the original source!
  • Another type of plagiarism is collusion , which refers to collaboration with others when working on school assignments or projects. Examples include allowing others to write or substantially edit your papers, or using someone else's paper or allowing them to use your own with permission.
  • You are guilty of self-plagiarism if you re-use your own paper, or even modify a paper you have already written, in another course, without getting prior approval of both instructors. Even if you have permission to use a previously written paper, you still must cite your own previous paper to avoid plagiarism.

To avoid plagiarism , try one of these three approaches to using outside sources:

  • Quoting To quote a source correctly, copy the passage word for word, place those words in quotation marks, and cite the source you found the quote in. If you are quoting lengthy passages (ie. a whole paragraph), use block indentation and a citation.
  • Paraphrasing To paraphrase, restate the information from a source using your own words. A paraphrased passage will be about the same length as the original passage. One way to paraphrase a passage is to use an attributive tag, such as "According to Thomas Jefferson,...".
  • Summarizing A summarized passage includes only the main ideas of a source in your own words, leaving out specific details. Summaries are typically shorter than paraphrased passages, and still must be cited.

In general, if you have any question about whether to cite or not cite, you probably should cite the source.

Additional Resources on Plagiarism

Copyright & Fair Use

"Copyright is a form of protection given by law to authors of intellectual works. Only authors or those to whom authors have assigned their rights may claim copyright. The owner of a copyright retains and controls a bundle of rights, including but not limited to the following: to print and reprint copies of the work; to sell or distribute copies of the work; to transform or revise the work; and to perform or display the work to the public." (WSU Copyright Policy). Under certain circumstances, (known as "Fair use") copies may be made of copyrighted materials. "The 'fair use' of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright." (Copyright Law of the United States of America)


Additional Resources on Copyright


Nowhere in the United States Constitution or the Bill of Rights is individual privacy specifically mentioned or guaranteed. But Americans have an expectation of a certain degree of privacy based on legal interpretations over the years. The following web sites are good starting places to learn more about the complex issue of personal privacy in the electronic age.

Additional Resources on Privacy

  • Center for Democracy and Technology's Guide to Online Privacy
    " This guide is intended to educate Internet users about online privacy, and offer practical suggestions and policy recommendations."
  • Federal Trade Commission Privacy Initiatives
    A comprehensive site, offering information on identify theft, online profiling, children's privacy, and other pertinent issues.
  • Online Privacy Guide
    By Bruce Stewart.  Includes various tips and tricks that address various privacy issues, such as email privacy, SPAM, etc.
  • Privacy.Net
  • Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
    " The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse is a nonprofit consumer education, research, and advocacy program. Our publications empower you to take action to control your personal information by providing practical tips on privacy protection."  Includes a set of FactSheets for ensuring your personal privacy.
Updated March 5, 2009 . Please send comments to Ed Hahn
Weber State University, Stewart Library. Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved.

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