Skip to Main Content

Academic Integrity & Plagiarism: Plagiarism Defined


Plagiarism consists of “the deliberate adoption or reproduction of ideas or words or statements of another person as one’s own without acknowledgment.”

The University subscribes to the statement on plagiarism, which appears on page 9 of William Watt’s An American Rhetoric. A student must give due credit to the originality of others and honestly pay their literary debts. They should acknowledge indebtedness:

1. Whenever they quote another person’s actual words;

2. Whenever they use another person’s idea or opinion or theory;

3. Whenever they borrow facts, statistics or other illustrative material— unless the information is common knowledge.


Examples of Plagiarism

a. Direct Quotation Original Source:

“The child’s surroundings, we are told, were devoid of artistic luxury...there was an absence of frivolity and a distaste for all that is paltry and superficial.” Student Paper: “The surroundings were devoid of artistic luxury and characterized by the absence of frivolity.” (no quotation marks or citation)


1. All “direct quotations must be placed in quotation marks and the source immediately cited in a footnote.”

2. Direct quotations must be placed in quotation marks even if a footnote is used to indicate the source and page from which the quotation was obtained.

3. Proper footnote form can be found in manuals on style and arrangement recommended by each academic department.


b. Paraphrase Original Source:

“The Cambodian incursion of April 1970 brought forth renewed observations from constitutional scholars...that the war making power of Congress has been eroded.” Student Paper: “The war in Vietnam and more specifically the Cambodian invasion in the Spring of 1970, evoked considerable observation from students, constitutional scholars, public observers of the political process and Congressmen that the war making power of Congress has been eroded.” (no citation; no quotation marks for the last phrase)


1. Acknowledgment is required when material from an original source is rewritten either in whole or in part in your own words.

 2. Properly acknowledged paraphrases may be used. For example, one might state, “to paraphrase Lock’s comment...” and conclude with a footnote identifying the source.


 c. “Borrowed” Facts or Information Original Source:

“In any of the defined situations, the President may commit the Armed Forces to combat for a period not to exceed thirty days.” Student Paper: “Except in certain designated emergency situations, the President may send the military into combat only for up to thirty days.” (no citation)


1. Facts that are not common knowledge must not be “borrowed” from any source without immediate acknowledgment.

2. Examples of “common knowledge” might include the names of leaders of prominent nations, basic scientific laws, etc. In case of doubt, always acknowledge indebtedness.

3. “...When a number of contiguous sentences take their special information from one place, one footnote usually is sufficient for all of them.”8

4. “Sometimes the materials from an outside source are extremely broad and contribute only to your general understanding of the subject. If so, acknowledgment by means of a bibliographical note at the end is sufficient...” 

5. General conversations with others need not to be acknowledged unless such conversations produce a specifically identifiable contribution to your paper. 

6. A footnote of acknowledgment might read: “I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness to John Doe for this concept (personal conversation, May 1975).”

Reference Sources:

Elmhurst University. (2021). Elmhurst University Handbook, 2021-2022

1. The term “academic exercise” includes all forms of work submitted for credit or honors.

2. Comments provide explanations and illustrative material, but do not necessarily exhaust the scope of any section.

3. This and the preceding titles are adapted from the Code of Academic Conduct at the University of Michigan (1973).

4. Hobart College Faculty Regulations (emphasis supplied).

5. Sources, Their Use and Acknowledgment (Dartmouth College, 1962): reprinted by Colgate University, p.6.

6. Adapted from Source, p.5.

7. Adapted from “A Definition of Plagiarism” in The Logic and Rhetoric of Exposition, Revised Edition, by Harold C. Martin and Richard Ohmann (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc. 1963). Reprinted in the Wesleyan University pamphlet Plagiarism, (1974), p.5.

8. Sources, p.11.

9. Sources, p.5.

10. Adapted from the Wesleyan University publication Plagiarism, pp.6-7.