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Faculty Guide to Plagiarism: Home

This guide was originally created by Sue Aspley.

Ethical Use of Information

Ethical use of information can involve both moral and legal issues.  One needs to be aware of how to paraphrase sources and how to properly cite sources.  Academics engaged in research need to be knowledgeable on boundaries surrounding plagiarism as well as intellectual property.

We have a basic guide on copyright principles which can be accessed at:

Defining Plagiarism

See K.R. St. Onge, The Melancholy Anatomy of Plagiarism (1988).  One chapter of the book places various definitions in context and clarifies the broad range of factual situations this term can embrace.

From  Oxford Dictionary & Thesaurus, Second American Edition,edited by Elizabeth J. Jewell; this is a short basic, general definition, commonly accepted.

"take and use (thoughts, writings, inventions, etc., of another person) as one's own."

Plagiarism is immoral or unethical but may not always be illegal.  However, one may commit plagiarism as well as engage in copyright infringement and the latter is illegal. "   If the expression's creator gives unrestricted permission for its use and the user claims the expression as original, the user commits plagiarism but does not violate copyright laws." Blacks Law Dictionary, Ninth Edition, edited by Garner.

"Derived from the Latin word plagiarius ("kidnapper"), plagiarism refers to a form of cheating that has been defined as 'the false assumption of authorship: the wrongful act of taking the product of another person's mind and presenting it as one's own' (Alexander Lindey, Plagiarism and Originality [New York, Harper, 1952] 2.  Plagiarism involves two kinds of wrongs.  Using another person's ideas, information, or expressions without acknowledging that person's work constitutes intellectual theft.  Passing off another person's idea, information, or expression as your own to get a better grade or gain some other advantage constitutes fraud.  Plagiarism is sometimes a moral and ethical offense rather than a legal one since some instances of plagiarism fall outside the scope of copyright infringement, a legal offense. (Gibaldi, Joseph, MLA Handbook, 6th ed. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2003. 66.)"

Avoiding Plagiarism


Plagiarism presents dual problems which concern ethical and moral issues.  On occasion it could even involve legal issues for at times it is possible to have plagiarism as well as copyright infringement regarding the same material.  Both are serious intellecutal offenses.  This section will present some resources on how to avoid plagiarism.

Purdue University's Writing Center known as the OWL presents information on the challenges and contradictions associated with avoiding plagiarism.


The Council of Writing Program Administrators has developed a guide on best practices in "Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism"

Standard Recommendations On Common Problems From Other Academic Institutions

From Duke University use direct quotes:

From Yale University guidance on paraphrasing:

From Princeton University's Academic Integrity site is a tutorial on "The Challenge of Original Works"

From Harvard University a guide on "Summarizing, Paraphrasing and Quoting"

APU UNIVERSITY:  Citation of Sources

Another method which can assist in avoiding plagiarism is learning how to properly cite sources.  One needs to provide accurate attribution to sources to maintain academic integrity and additionally, to enable interested parties to do further research by consulting the sources.  There are numerous citation guides and some for particular disciplines which can be consulted.

APU tutorials on citation prepared by Kimberley Stephenson, Associate Professor, Web Services Librarian, and Michelle Spomer, Associate Professor, Theological Bibliography and Research Librarian, can be accessed through the links below:

These guides cover:
APA Print Sources
APA Electronic Resources
Citing Dissertations & Government Documents in APA Style
MLA Print Sources
MLA Electronic Resources
Turabian Format

This is a major university supported resource for checking for plagiarism. Faculty might want to run their own work through the process if there are doubts about proper citation.  Log-on information and training is provided through APU's Office of Faculty Development.




Provides a good discussion and adds the aspects of discussing legal cases which have arisen on plagiarism.


All of these articles can be accessed through our subscription databases.  The easiest way to retrieve them would be by title of article.  A good database to use would be Academic Search Premier.

Auer,N. and Krupar,E. (2001). Mouse Click Plagiarism: The Role of Technology in Plagiarism and the Librarian's Role in Combating It. Library Trends. 49(3), 415-432.

Bouville, M. (2008). Plagiarism: Words and Ideas. Science Engineering Ethics, 14, 311-322.

Ercegovac, Z. and Richardson, Jr., J. (2004). Academic Dishonesty, Plagiarism Included, in the Digital Age: A Literature Review. College & Research Libraries,65, 303-318.

Etter, S., Cramer, J., and Finn, S. (2006). Origins of Academic Dishonesty: Ethical Orientations and Personality Factors Associated with Attitudes about Cheating with Information Technology. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 39(2), 133-155.

Kaltenbaugh, A. (2005). Plagiarism The Technological, Intellectual, and Personal Facets of the Principles of Attribution, Use, and Acknowledgment. Journal of Information Ethics, 14(2), 50-60.

Savage Jr., William W. (2003). My Favorite Plagiarist:  Some Reflections of an Offended Party. Journal of Scholarly Publishing, 34 (4), 214-220.

Integrity and the Faculty Handbook


Academic Integrity

Expectations of academic integrity of APU students must be predicated by academic integrity on the part of APU faculty members. Faculty members are expected to model the rules of scholarship giving credit to ideas taken from other sources, having data collection involving human or animal subjects approved by the appropriate board, conducting data collection carefully, calculating statistics appropriately, and reporting findings in a manner consistent with their significance.  Established academic dishonesty on the part of a faculty member is grounds for termination.

"The issue of plagiarism is as good a place as any to start the good fight to recapture the ethical high ground that the academy has traditionally claimed as its own." K.R. St. Onge as quoted at footnote 34, in Dursht, Jamie S., Note: Judicial Plagiarism: It May Be Fair Use But is it Ethical?, 18 Cardozo L. Rev. (1996), 1253.


Plagiarism can be intentional or unintentional.  The infraction in either case is equally unethical and immoral.  Plagiarism can involve improper paraphrasing, or misuse of sources. Therefore it is essential to be knowledgeable on what can constitute plagiarism.  Some of the more common specific problems are noted below with links to online academic sites which set forth in extensive detail where infractions may occur.


Using Common Knowledge or Facts

From Dartmouth:

"The rule seems simple: Whenever you quote from or use another person’s work, that author must be cited. But what should you do when you are writing about an idea that did not originate with you, that seems to be part of “common knowledge,” and that you may or may not have taken from a specific source? While you do not need to cite common knowledge, it may prove difficult for you to recognize what knowledge is “common.”

Try to determine how scholars treat similar information. Do they cite it? If not, it is probably common knowledge, at least within this particular discipline. Do some cite while others do not? Play it safe, and cite. Is the information in question brand new information for you? Are you unable to find that information in multiple sources? Again, play it safe, and cite. If you need further confirmation, ask your professor."


From Indiana:

"Common knowledge: facts that can be found in numerous places and are likely to be known by a lot of people.

Example: John F. Kennedy was elected President of the United States in 1960.
This is generally known information. You do not need to document this fact.

However, you must document facts that are not generally known and ideas that interpret facts.

Example: According the American Family Leave Coalition’s new book, Family Issues and Congress, President Bush’s relationship with Congress has hindered family leave legislation (6).
The idea that “Bush’s relationship with Congress has hindered family leave legislation” is not a fact but an interpretation; consequently, you need to cite your source."


Therefore common knowledge or common facts also equate to materials which are not copyrightable meaning some ideas, methodologies, lists, and generally accepted facts are not subject to copyright and may be used freely.

In our basic copyright guide there is a section on materials normally not subject to copyright which can be accessed at:


From Northwestern:

This is an extensive guide which deals with concrete examples of plagiarism not commonly discussed.

"Failure to acknowledge the sources from which we borrow ideas, examples, words and the progression of thought constitutes plagiarism."

Here are some examples:

1. Direct Plagiarism

Source Material
"From: Ekman, Paul, Wallace V. Friesen, and Phoebe Ellsworth. Emotion in the Human Face: Guidelines for Research and an Integration of Findings. New York: Pergamon, 1972. Print.

Page 1: The human face in repose and in movement, at the moment of death as in life, in silence and in speech, when alone and with others, when seen or sensed from within, in actuality or as represented in art or recorded by the camera is a commanding, complicated, and at times confusing source of information. The face is commanding because of its very visibility and omnipresence. While sounds and speech are intermittent, the face even in repose can be informative. And, except by veils or masks, the face cannot be hidden from view. There is no facial maneuver equivalent to putting one's hands in one's pockets. Further, the face is the location for sensory inputs, life-necessary intake, and communicative output. The face is the site for the sense receptors of taste, smell, sight, and hearing, the intake organs for food, water, and air, and the output location for speech. The face is also commanding because of its role in early development; it is prior to language in the communication between parent and child.

Misuse of source
(italicized passages indicate direct plagiarism):
Many experts agree that the human face, whether in repose or in movement, is a commanding, complicated, and sometimes confusing source of information. The face is commanding because it's visible and omnipresent. Although sounds and speech may be intermittent, the face even in repose may give information. And, except by veils or masks, the face cannot be hidden. Also, the face is the location for sensory inputs, life-supporting intake, and communication.

The plagiarized passage is an almost verbatim copy of the original source. The writer has compressed the author's opinions into fewer sentences by omitting several phrases and sentences. But this compression does not disguise the writer's reliance on this text for the concepts he passes off as his own. The writer tries to disguise his indebtedness by beginning with the phrase "Many experts agree that. . . . " This reference to "many experts" makes it appear that the writer was somehow acknowledging the work of scholars "too numerous to mention." The plagiarized passage makes several subtle changes in language (e.g., it changes "visibility and omnipresence" to "it's visible and omnipresent"). The writer has made the language seem more informal in keeping with his own writing style. He ignores any embellishments or additional information given in the source-passage. He contents himself with borrowing the sentence about how only masks and veils can hide the face, without using the follow-up elaboration about there not being a "facial equivalent to putting one's hands in one's pockets." He also reduces the source's list of the face's diverse activities at the end of the paragraph.
Had the writer enclosed the borrowed material in quotation marks and credited the authors of the Emotions book with a parenthetical citation, this would have been a legitimate use of a source.

2. The Mosaic

Source Material
From: Fishman, Joshua. Language in Sociocultural Change. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1972. Print.

Page 67: In a relatively open and fluid society there will be few characteristics of lower-class speech that are not also present (albeit to a lesser extent) in the speech of the working and lower middle classes. Whether we look to phonological features such as those examined by Labov or to morphological units such as those reported by Fischer (1958) (Fischer studied the variation between -in' and -ing for the present participle ending, i.e. runnin' vs. running and found that the former realization was more common when children were talking to each other than when they were talking to him, more common among boys than girls, and more common among "typical boys" than among "model boys"), we find not a clear-cut cleavage between the social classes but a difference in rate of realization of particular variants of particular variables for particular contexts. Even the widely publicized distinction between the "restricted code" of lower-class speakers and the "elaborate code" of middle-class speakers (Bernstein 1964, 1966) is of this type, since Bernstein includes the cocktail party and the religious service among the social situations in which restricted codes are realized. Thus, even in the somewhat more stratified British setting, the middle class is found to share some of the features of what is considered to be "typically" lower-class speech. Obviously then, "typicality," if it has any meaning at all in relatively open societies, must refer largely to repertoire range rather than to unique features of the repertoire.

Misuse of source
(italicized passages indicate direct plagiarism):
In a relatively fluid society many characteristics of lower-class speech will also be found among the working and lower middle classes. Labov and Fischer's studies show that there is not a clear-cut cleavage between social classes but only a difference in the frequency of certain speech modes. All classes share certain speech patterns. The difference among classes would only be apparent by the frequency with which speech expressions or patterns appeared. By this standard, then, Bernstein's distinction between the "restricted code" of the lower-class speakers and the "elaborated code" of middle-class speakers is useful only up to a point, since Bernstein mentions cocktail parties and religious services as examples of "restricted speech" groupings. "Typicality" refers more to speech "range" than to particular speech features.

While this passage contains relatively few direct borrowings from the original source, all its ideas and opinions are lifted from it. The writer hides her dependency on the source by translating its academic terms into more credible language for a novice in sociology. For example, the plagiarist steers clear of sophisticated terms like "phonological features," "morphological units," and "repertoire range." However, her substitutions are in themselves clues to her plagiarism, since they over-generalize the source's meaning. The writer seems to acknowledge secondary sources when she refers to Labov's and Fischer's studies, but she obviously has no first-hand knowledge of their research. If she had consulted these studies, she should have cited them directly and included them in the Works Cited list, rather than pretending that both she and her audience would be completely familiar with them. She intertwines her own opinions with the source and forms a confused, plagiarized mass.

The writer should have acknowledged her indebtedness to her source by eliminating borrowed phrases and crediting her paragraph as a paraphrase of the original material. She could also have put quotation marks around the borrowed phrases and cited them appropriately: “As Fishman explains, phonological studies by Labov and Fischer show that “there is not a clear-cut cleavage between social classes but only a difference” in the frequency of certain speech modes (Fishman 67)."