Student Rights & Responsibilities
College Definition of Plagiarism

Plagiarism is the presenting of another's words, ideas or projects as one's original work. To draw upon another's work; to copy out passages (even as short as a sentence) verbatim or with small changes; to use as original another's ideas, interpretations, striking terms or phrases; to paraphrase; or to summarize without acknowledging the source - these require acknowledgement (i.e., footnotes or other citations giving adequate description of the source of materials and clearly indicating all quotations either by quotation marks or by otherwise setting off the quoted passage).

The most common forms of student plagiarism, whether deliberate or not, are these:

  1. Too much of the wording of a passage is quoted without being placed within quotation marks.
  2. The research or thoughts of another are not credited.
  3. The sources used are merely listed in a bibliography section and not specifically tied to information in the text.

In writing and speaking at levels below the most formal, plagiarism can be avoided by including into the text less-than-specific references to sources. Even such an indefinite reference as "in a magazine article I read last summer" would avoid a charge of plagiarism, although it might not provide convincing support for the point being made.

In very formal presentations, such as research papers and papers read in symposia, of which the sources might be expected to be checked or reviewed by some members of the audience, specific references to sources and a standard style of documentation are expected.

However, not all information from sources external to the writer or speaker need be credited, as in the cases of facts or common knowledge, facts readily attainable from a variety of reference sources, and well-known quotations. For example, a writer need not cite the source of George Washington's birthplace or of the name of the current British Prime Minister, for such facts are easily retrieved, noncontroversial, and do not represent the research efforts of a particular person or body. Similarly, quotations that are expected to be recognized by an audience need not be credited - for example, "All the world's a stage," and "Love your neighbor as yourself." Quotations that are part of the current scene may require no quotation marks at all. For example, an audience during the years of the George Bush presidency is expected to recognize "Read my lips" and the phrase "kinder and gentler" when they are worked into any discourse and to know they are slogans spoken by that president.

The question of how much wording from a source may be used in a paraphrase will bother conscientious students. Certainly words and phrases that are so common and natural to the content that they cannot be avoided in a paraphrase need not be placed between quotation marks. If, for example, in a paper discussing the dangers of jogging, a student were to wish to paraphrase a passage containing the sentence, "President Carter had to drop out of a footrace in Thurmont, Maryland," the student would not be obliged to place within quotation marks the name of the person or the place or the common verbal phrase "drop out." However, if the passage has stated that "the President paled, sagged and sank," the use of any of those striking verbs especially selected by the original writer would require quotation marks. In either case, this reference to a footnote in history should be credited by some means.

Just as some examples presented above fit a narrow definition of plagiarism but are really exceptions to it, so, too, forms of dishonest behavior on the part of writer or speaker exist wholly outside the definition but are similarly examples of deliberate deception. They include the citing of or quoting from nonexistent sources, the knowingly inaccurate citing of sources when research notes have been lost or omitted, the submitting of work from another course as though it were generated in the later course. These, like the offenses of plagiarism, represent varying degrees of culpability and require a flexible application of discipline according to the judgment of the instructor. However, in a case of deliberate plagiarism, the student is subject to the College's disciplinary policy. Due process is granted to the student as outlined in the Academic Dishonesty Policy and Complaint Procedure

Pennsylvania College of Technology
One College Avenue
Williamsport, PA 17701


© 1995 Pennsylvania College of Technology. Penn College® and degrees that work® are registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.