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Copyright and Plagiarism
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Plagiarism FAQs


FAQs For Students (click here):

For Faculty:


Are students plagiarizing, and I don't know it?

Possibly, if you ask them to write closely from texts and you don't have a good memory of the texts' wording. Whenever they report on research they also may be plagiarizing. Naturally, you cannot know everything that is out there.

Why do students plagiarize?

For many reasons, including their lack of understanding about what plagiarism is. A very important temptation to plagiarize comes from students' insecurity about their own writing. Or disorganization may put them in a sudden time crunch.

Are there things I'm doing that encourage plagiarism?

Unclear and too simple assignment directions sometimes encourage students to think of plagiarizing. Homework assignments that ask students to write directly about what a text says can also tempt students to copy instead of restate the material in their own words.

Is it easy and common for students to plagiarize on research papers?

Yes, though plagiarizing an entire paper is less common than lifting paragraphs word for word from book or Internet sources. "Cutting and pasting" single clauses and sentences into the students' own writing is even more common. Less common, but still popular among some students, is the practice of buying ready-made term papers on various subjects from so-called "paper mills" on the Internet. A paper can be purchased easily for $50. There are even papers on ethics for sale on the Internet.

What can I do to prevent plagiarism?

The more custom-tailored the assignment is with specific directions to follow the harder it is for students to plagiarize on completing it. Also, see the section on this plagiarism website called: How to stop/catch plagiarism.

How can I detect when a student is plagiarizing?

There are various techniques to use. Keeping an eye out for sudden changes of writing style inside papers can help tip off plagiarized passages. Wording or phraseology that seems beyond a student's intellectual ability is a tip-off. Sometimes plugging an unusual-sounding phrase from a paper into an Internet search turns up its source. Also, see the section on this plagiarism website called: How to stop/catch plagiarism.

What should I do if I catch a student plagiarizing?

Follow Grossmont's policies. For questions on the policies, contact Student Affairs at 644-7600.

For Students:

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is using written material produced by others as though it were one's own. It results from failing to give proper credit to authors for the work they have written. See the definitions on this site.

How do I give proper credit to the authors of written material I use?

You can acknowledge that material has been written by another author either through direct statements in the body of text you are writing or in footnotes and/or endnotes to that text.

What is the proper format for footnoting?

You should use the Modern Language Association or the American Psychological Association formats. Each of these formats can be found on the Web.

When I write, must I cite everything I learn from my sources?

No. You need not cite common knowledge that your sources have included in their writing.

What is common knowledge?

Common knowledge does not means facts that everybody knows. Rather it is knowledge that has been discovered, demonstrated or proven numerous times by different people and that has become widely accepted.

Then what kind of material must I cite?

You must cite and put in quotations anything you take word for word. And even though you don't have to cite commonly known facts from your sources, you must cite their unique interpretations of those facts. You must also cite any facts which they have discovered by themselves.

May I avoid citing my sources' words if I don't quote them directly but paraphrase them instead?

No. You still must give your sources credit for their ideas, though if you change the way the ideas are expressed to your own way, you don't have to put them in quotation marks.

May I simply rearrange my sources' words without really rewriting the ideas in my own way?

Sorry - you may not.

Does my professor have ways of detecting whether I have plagiarized or not?

Yes. Your professor likely can distinguish your writing style from writing styles of the professionals who you copy from. Also, your professor often can track down copied material on the Internet by plugging a suspicious-looking string of words into a search engine. And there are other methods for determining whether writing has been copied.

Last Updated: 12/09/2014
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