Plagiarism:  Thou Shall Not Steal

While plagiarism has always been a problem, the popularity of the Internet has made it even more so.  Students plagiarize for many reasons: poor time management, lack of confidence in their own writing, and even lack of interest in the assignment. Some students plagiarize intentionally, but most students do so out of carelessness or because they are unaware of research conventions.  Therefore, the purpose of this document is to provide you with a basic definition of plagiarism, its various forms, and prevention methods.


A Definition:

Simply put, plagiarism is stealing someone else’s words or ideas and passing them off as your own.  



The following are common examples of plagiarism found at the college level:

§       Buying a paper from a paper mill, such as schoolsucks. com and using it as your speech. (By the way, the papers found at that site are not very good; therefore, they make lousy speeches.)

§      Copying an article or paper from the Web or another source and using it as your speech. Copying and pasting has made this method of plagiarism quite popular.

§       Assembling a speech by copying bits and pieces of different passages from an article or a combination of articles. Usually, the variety of styles makes an instructor suspicious.

§       Borrowing a paper from a friend.

§       Making up information, either quotes or sources.

§       Putting information in your own words but forgetting to acknowledge your source of information.

§       Using a paper that you wrote for another class. This last one may seem a bit strange. After all, you wrote the paper. However, some instructors refer to this as self-plagiarism. If you want to use a paper you wrote for another class to create a speech, you should obtain the permission of your instructor.



As easy as it is to plagiarize, getting caught is just as easy. Usually, an instructor has to type in only a key phrase from the paper using a search engine, such as Yahoo or Google, to find the original source.



To write ethically and avoid problems, you must acknowledge all borrowed material in a speech. You can do that by using the Modern Language Association (MLA) format to document sources and create the works cited page.

If you are using research in your speech,  be sure you have read the appropriate section in your text (pages 49-52).


If you have borrowed material from another source (book, magazine, interview, Internet, etc.) to compose your speech you must do two things to remain an ethical writer.


First, you must acknowledge EACH piece of borrowed material within the paper itself. Yes, that means that each time you include something (a quote, a statistic, an opinion, an image, etc.) from another source, you MUST give your reader some specific information about the source of that information. In most cases, an author’s last name is sufficient. If you don’t have an author, a quick reference to the article’s title or to the name of the source is acceptable. Acknowledging sources in this way allows your reader to differentiate you as the writer from your sources. Without documenting sources, your reader has no idea what has been written by you and what has been included from your research. Using quotation marks is not enough.

1.     Visit the Research Help section on the Writing Links page.

2.     Visit the Bedford Guide.


Second, you must provide complete information on each of your sources on the Works Cited page, which should appear as the last page of your essay. Each entry, depending on what it is, must be set up in a particular format. For example, a book follows a specific format, a magazine article another, and an Internet source still another.

You can search a number of different sources to see how to best set up your particular sources.

1.    Check out the Purdue On-Line Writing Lab at

2.    See 5b in the Bedford Guide.

Here’s an example of how I might acknowledge borrowed material in a written outline:

“The baby-powder-like substance in the letter opened on Capitol Hill on Oct. 15 does not respect laws and traditions such as gravity and envelopes. So authorities must not continue to abide by the old rules that put public calm before caution, process before speed” (Ripley). In the speech itself, I might say, "According to Ripley, "The baby-powder-like substance...."

Here’s another:

William Patrick III, who spent 20 years designing biological weapons for the U.S., states, “All these things are telling me is that the person designing these weapons has a knowledge base that’s pretty damn good” (qtd. in Ripley).

Here’s how the entry on the Works Cited page will appear for any material taken from the Ripley article.:

Works Cited

Ripley, Amanda. “The Hunt for the Anthrax Killers.”  Time 5 Nov. 2001.

    28 Oct.2001<,9171,



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