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Many colleges and universities are experiencing incidences of students’ plagiarizing, and the number seems to be increasing every year (Lim, 2004). Many students do not understand the seriousness of copying material, especially from the Internet. However, you need to be aware that plagiarizing can have serious consequences for you. Below you will find information on plagiarism and some advice on how to avoid this practice.

Red River College-Policy on Plagiarism
The college’s policy on plagiarizing falls under the section on Academic Integrity. The policy states that students plagiarize if they use any material, including words, ideas, pictures, or theories from a source without proper acknowledgement and/or submit it as their own (Red River College, 2009).

Cases of plagiarizing can range from minor-using one or two quotes/ideas from an author without a citation, to major-recopying large portions of a written work and passing it off as the students’ own work or buying material to use to obtain a grade. Penalties can range from a verbal or written warning to receiving a failure for the assignment or the entire course. Students must be aware of the dangers and consequences of plagiarizing since “not knowing” isn’t considered a reasonable excuse. Click here to view the entire policy document.

Copyright Laws
A copyright is a law allowing writers of any material to publish, distribute, and dispose of their work for a specified period of time, and any works created by writers is automatically protected by copyright laws. Plagiarizing is a legal offence as well as an academic one, and the owner of copyrighted material can sue the plagiarist for violation of copyright laws (Strandler, 2000). 

Reasons Students Plagiarize
The University of Alberta Libraries (2010) has suggested some reasons that may lead students to plagiarize, either unintentionally or deliberately. Familiarize yourself with the reasons that might lead you to plagiarize. Guard against unwittingly engaging in what is considered to be an act of academic dishonesty. 
1. Insufficient knowledge of research and writing skills. Students may come to college never having written a research paper before. They may not have learned how to evaluate written material, make proper notes from books, journal/periodical articles or other references for sources of information, or put together an essay in academic style using APA or MLA formatting.

2. Confusion about paraphrasing from written sources. Some students believe they only have to give a citation when they use direct quotes from a reference source. However, ideas are not always quoted directly. Students also paraphrase, or put ideas from their sources into their own words. All paraphrases used in an essay must be cited also. The problem may be made worse when students try to paraphrase difficult technical text or unfamiliar vocabulary, and fail to cite properly, one of the causes of unintentional plagiarism. 

3.  Insufficient knowledge or confusion about how to cite sources properly. Students may be perplexed when they have to use two different referencing styles or when faced with contradictory rules from style guides within one particular style. As well, online sources are difficult to cite since there is not always agreement from style guides on how to cite them properly.

4. Misconceptions about common knowledge and intellectual property. Information that is common knowledge does not have to be cited. Something that is generally accepted as factual and found in the public domain in many sources is considered common knowledge. However, it is not easy for students to distinguish what written material should be considered as common knowledge and what needs a citation, and may unintentionally plagiarize a writer’s intellectual property.

5. Poor time management skills. First year college students often have a hard time adjusting to the high demands that going to college makes on them. They may become overwhelmed with the amount of reading, studying, and assignments that they have to do. Consequently, they may procrastinate or not start an essay until it is too late. The easy access to written papers on the Internet may encourage students to purchase, copy and paste one in a time crunch.

How to avoid plagiarizing
Learning some time management techniques will help prevent plagiarizing. For example, start your research early when given as an assignment. Don’t wait until the last minute when you might be tempted to plagiarize. Also, get the information you need to learn to cite properly.

Knowing why, what, and how to cite research sources is important since you will have to complete writing assignments throughout your time in school. The reasons why citing is important are: 

  • You must give credit to author(s) for their ideas and words. If you don’t, you are plagiarizing, which is considered academic dishonesty.
  • You back up your statements with input from other professionals. Providing citations of your research sources lets your instructor evaluate your work based on the validity of those sources.
  • You demonstrate your knowledge and skill of researching, which is a valuable asset in the technological workplace today.

What to cite is also important to know. You must give an in-text citation and full reference for: 

  • Specific facts or statistics that have been provided by a person or organization.
  • All ideas and words from printed and Internet/web page/on-line sources.
  • All diagrams, tables, pictures, and audio-visuals used.

Learning how to cite is an essential skill that all students should master. In almost all programs in the college, you will have to do some research, and if so, you must provide a citation for any material reproduced. Here are some suggestions for how you can learn the basic rules for citing and referencing: 

  • Know the styles you must use, such as APA and MLA, and access their websites to get the rules.
  • Go to the college library and ask the librarian for information on referencing.
  • Get a copy of the latest edition of the style guides for APA or MLA and follow the examples given.
  • Get in the habit of putting citations in your notes as you do your research and include them in your rough draft. It will be easier to keep track of each item cited, rather than trying to fill them in the final copy. This will make your reference list easier to complete when you’re finished, and save you a tremendous amount of time.

Lim, E. (2004). Increasing cases of plagiarism. Hosteur,13(1/2). Retrieved from

Red River College. (2009). Student code of rights and responsibilities and selected related policies and procedures. Winnipeg, MB:RRC 

Strandler, R. B. (2000). Plagiarism in colleges in USA. Retrieved July 20, 2010, from

University of Alberta Libraries. (2010). Guide to plagiarism and cyber-plagiarism. Retrieved July 20, 2010, from