Preventing Plagiarism



Resources for Students

Colby's Policy

The following statement on "Academic Honesty" includes Colby's policy on plagiarism (taken from the Colby College Catalogue 2002-2003, p. 32). "Plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty are serious offenses. For the first offense, the instructor may dismiss the offender from the course with a mark of F (which is a permanent entry on the student's academic record) and will report the case to the department chair and the dean of students, who may impose other or additional penalties including suspension or expulsion. This report becomes part of the student's confidential file and is destroyed upon graduation. A second offense automatically leads to suspension or expulsion. Students may not withdraw passing from a course in which they have been found guilty of academic dishonesty. A student is entitled to appeal charges of academic dishonesty to the Appeals Board. The decision of the board shall be final and binding unless overruled by the president of the College, who has final authority and responsibility.

The College also views misrepresentations to faculty within the context of a course as a form of academic dishonesty. Students lying to or otherwise deceiving faculty are subject to dismissal from the course with a mark of F and possible additional disciplinary action.

Student accountability for academic dishonesty extends beyond the end of a semester and even after graduation. If Colby determines following the completion of a course or after the awarding of a Colby degree that academic dishonesty has occurred, the College may change the student's grade in the course, issue a failing grade, and rescind credit for the course and/or revoke the Colby degree.

Without the explicit, written approval of the instructors involved, registration for two or more courses scheduled to meet concurrently is a form of academic dishonesty."

Plagiarism Literacy Quizzes

See how much you know about plagiarism by taking the following quizzes:

"Honor System/Plagiarism Self-Test"

"Copyright & Plagiarism Quiz"

"Quiz 7: Authorship & Plagiarism"

Common Forms of Plagiarism

Most of these examples are taken from Gordon Harvey's Writing with Sources (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., 1998), pp. 23 through 28. Miller Library has a copy of this at the Reference Desk; you might want to get your own, as it has extensive advice on how to cite materials and avoid plagiarism.

  • Uncited data or information

  • If something is common knowledge ("Many songbirds migrate."), you don't need to cite your source. If it is the result of someone else's work or research ("XX% of North American songbirds migrate."), you must cite the source in which you found the data.

  • Uncredited text

  • Cutting and pasting text, whether a sentence or a paragraph, or more, is plagiarism unless you put the text in quotation marks and correctly cite the source.

  • Uncredited ideas

  • Taking an idea from a source and rewording it entirely is still plagiarism if you don't cite the source.

  • Distinctive words or phrases

  • One guideline says four or more words in a row must have quotation marks and a cited source. Another says even a single word, if distinctive, can be considered plagiarism if not credited. Besides, you can say it better, anyway!

  • Unacknowledged organizing structure

  • If you summarize someone's argument point by point in your notes and then use those points in the same sequence in your writing without citing the source, you are plagiarizing. (Notice the citation at the beginning of this section? It credits Gordon because these examples are taken in sequence from his work.)

  • Ignoring, misconstruing, or fabricating material

  • Don't become so enamoured of your own theories that you must falsify your evidence to support them.

  • Paper mills

  • Frankly, their quality is generally so poor, so off topic, and so obvious to faculty, why waste your time -- and your education?

  • Inappropriate collaboration

  • This can be particularly challenging when your classes call for group work. Always ask your professor for guidelines in any required collaboration. Take notes when working together rather than creating drafts. When writing up a collaborative effort, write your own work by yourself, acknowledge the collaboration in your paper, and be wary of letting partners read your finished work -- it could be too tempting.

  • Using one paper for two or more classes

  • This should never be done without the explicit permission of all the involved instructors, and is a questionable choice at best. Given the variations of approaches, discussions, and readings on any given topic, it's highly unlikely that one paper could be the best work possible for more than one class.

  • Contributing to plagiarism by others

  • Letting someone else copy your work or doing work for someone else both constitute intellectual dishonesty. Leaving copies of your papers on computers or in printers in public labs is a golden invitation to someone else to plagiarize, which could land you both in trouble. And why should someone else have the benefit of all your hard work?

    Some Ways to Avoid Inadvertent Plagiarism

  • Keep a research notebook in which you write down every source you consult (print and electronic) as well as each term you use in the indexes and search engines. Remember to include all the citation information the first time -- you don't want to have to backtrack for the bibliography.


  • Use quotation marks in your notes to make it clear when you are using someone else's words, ideas, and/or structures, so you won't use them as your own by mistake.


  • Don't cite a source you haven't read.


  • Images from the Web must state permission to use them, or else you must obtain permission and/or cite them properly in any presentation, electronic or paper.


  • Keep your notes and your drafts of your papers for at least a semester after the course.


  • See if you can explain your ideas to a friend without referring to your notes. If you can't, or if you find yourself using other people's language, you may need to increase your own understanding of the subject before writing the paper or giving the presentation.


  • Talk to your faculty about plagiarism. Bring it up in class. Ask what form of citation to use, as they vary from discipline to discipline. If you're wondering about it, chances are very good that your classmates are as well.


  • Further Resources

    "What is Plagiarism?" Dartmouth's guide, which gives some examples of plagiarized text.

    "Plagiarism: What it is and How to Recognize and Avoid It" Indiana University's guide offers examples of acceptable and unacceptable paraphrases.

    The Writers' Center Writing Tips on Plagiarism Suggestions from the Colby Farnham Writers' Center.

    Style and Citation Manuals A list of links from the Colby Library Web page.

    The Dartmouth page, "Sources: Their Use and Acknowledgment" gives particularly useful examples of APA, MLA, Science, and footnote styles.

    Created by: Marilyn R. Pukkila
    Document last modified on 04/06/05

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