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Guide to Research and Writing for the Academic Study of Religion

Avoiding Plagiarism

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is academic dishonesty. It occurs when one person uses the work of another without giving credit to the original source. Plagiarism is not only the appropriation of the entire or partial work of another but includes the use of ideas, key terms, or language without crediting the original author.

Handing in the same work for credit in two different courses without the permission of both the instructors is also considered plagiarism.

Why Does it Happen?

Deliberate plagiarism occurs when someone tries to pass off the work, ideas, or terms of another as his or her own. Unintentional plagiarismcan occur when someone is unfamiliar with the proper way to cite a source or because of a lack of understanding of when a source needs to be cited. Sometimes plagiarism occurs because of sloppy note-taking that fails to distinguish between the ideas of others and the researcher's own ideas. There are many situations that result in intentional and/or unintentional plagiarism, all of which should be avoided!

How Can it Be Avoided?

The best ways to avoid plagiarism are to plan ahead, stay organized, and learn to cite sources properly. Expectations at an undergraduate level are rarely that you will be coming up with your own original theories. Rather, you are usually researching the theories of others in order to familiarize yourself with the field and develop skills of critical thinking. Even at more advanced levels and for professional researchers, ideas never develop in a void. Research is always built on what came before and so the sources that gave the inspiration or background for new ideas must be credited. Many of the ideas and concepts you will include in your papers you will have found somewhere and professors will expect to see your sources credited. If you give credit properly, you will likely never find yourself in a position of having unintentionally plagiarized.

If, however, you are thinking of intentionally plagiarizing, for whatever reason, remember that the consequences are serious. If you feel you cannot complete an assignment before the due date or don’t feel up to the task, see your professor in advance to deal with the situation rather than risking expulsion from the University. See the University Calendar for more information on plagiarism and for the University's policy on academic dishonesty.

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