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Plagiarism: A Student Guide: Home

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism involves taking someone else’s ideas, words, images, etc. and passing them off as your own.   If it’s not something you created or thought of on your own, you need to credit the person who originally developed the material or idea.

Types of Plagiarism

Downloading a research paper from the internet and handing it in as your own or copying and pasting sections from other works into your own are blatant examples of intentional plagiarism, but many problems occur through other forms of plagiarism (some unintentional), including:

  • failing to provide in-text citations (i.e. citations located within your work) 
  • failing to provide a reference or works cited list (i.e. a list of citations for sources used located at the end of your work)
  • blurring the line between your ideas and those of another
  • incorrectly paraphrasing (e.g. citing the source, but using words and phrases too similar to the original).

Why is Plagiarism Such a Big Deal?

Plagiarism is considered unethical, but many people fail to realize the full repercussion of this type of academic dishonesty.

  • Purchasing a ready-made paper and pasting your name on it results in a loss of knowledge that would have been gained by doing your own research and writing your own paper.  Education requires an investment of your time and energy.  Taking short-cuts devalues the educational process and ends hurting you in the long run.
  • Instances of plagiarism result in penalties imposed by the college, resulting in severe damage to one's academic reputation, a reputation which cannot be easily rehabilitated.
  • Plagiarism results in a loss of a voice, your voice, to the scholarly community.  Research goes beyond reporting others' ideas; it also involves analyzing and connecting existing knowledge and using these analyses and connections to develop new insights. 

What Happens at Waldorf if You Plagiarize?

Along with cheating, fabricating data, and inappropriate collaboration, plagiarism is included as a type of violation of academic integrity as discussed in the Waldorf College Student Handbook.  Students involved in academic dishonesty may:

  • Receive an “F” for the project or paper
  • Receive an “F” for the course
  • Face expulsion from the college

Actual consequences depend on the severity of the violation and the student’s prior history of academic dishonesty.  Violations will be reported to the Vice President of Academic Affairs and will become a permanent part of the student’s academic file.

Click here to view the student handbook .  

What is SafeAssign?

SafeAssign is a program through Blackboard that checks student papers against others' work and provides a report with information on what percentage of your work matches another, and potential sources of the matching text.  It is commonly used in Waldorf online courses to detect plagiarism.

For more information on how SafeAssign works, visit the student section of the SafeAssign Wiki.

When Should I Cite?

How Do You Avoid Accidentally Plagiarizing?

  • Familiarize yourself with the citation style required by your professor.  The Waldorf College citation style guides available online provide the basics, but for more thorough information, consult the full style guide book recommended on these pages.
  • Know the difference between quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing.  Learn the correct way to format each of these.  The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) provides a good overview.
  • Keep careful notes as you conduct your research.  Make sure your notes accurately reflect what you have read, and remember to match your notes with detailed information on the source so that you are able to construct full citations when you write your own paper.
  • As you are writing, examine your work critically in terms of where others' ideas end and your own thoughts begin.  This should be clear to readers.
  • Don't procrastinate.  It takes time to do research and create quality work with proper source documentation.  Citations tend to become sloppy when students are facing a time crunch.     

Does Everything Need to be Cited?

Both traditional multi-page research papers and shorter assignments require you to document information that is not your own.  If you include others' opinions and reflections, prior research, relatively unknown facts and statistics, images, lyrics, etc., you need to provide citation information in your work.  In terms of deciding if something needs to be cited, it makes no difference if it is freely available online or found in your textbook.  Free does not mean that citations are unnecessary.

The only time a citation is not needed is when you use commonly known information.  For example, you would not need to provide a citation for facts such as the year the Civl War began, or the chemical makeup of water.  Determining if something is commonly known can be complicated and may depend on your field of study.  If you are questioning whether or not something needs to be cited, consult your professor, or other student service areas such as the Writing Center or the library.