Plagiarism Overview

Plagiarism (as a form of Academic Dishonesty) is extremely complicated for teachers and students alike. Faculty often assume students understand what plagiarism is — or even that students understand the brief injunctions against it on the syllabus — whereas most researchers find just the opposite to be the case.

Frequently, students are merely making developmental mistakes as they attempt to appropriate academic discourse. In defining plagiarism, the links below ask teachers significant questions: Is it plagiarism if the student does it by mistake or doesn't know better? Is plagiarism the same thing in all disciplines? How does the Internet complicate our assumptions about the ownership of text and ideas? And perhaps most important, how should we handle students when the specter of plagiarism rears its ugly head?

Writing Program Administrators suggest that the best prevention to plagiarism comes in designing assignments for students that resist the easy lifting of text or ideas from other sources by requiring students to apply the knowledge they get from sources.

Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism

Anti-Plagiarism Strategies for Research Papers (Robert A. Harris)
Harris focuses here on "strategies of awareness" for teachers and students; these strategies involve establishing a "mindset" about plagiarism that both parties can understand. See also Harris's "free anti-plagiarism tips" from his book The Plagiarism Handbook at
Plagiarism & Anti-Plagiarism (Heyward Ehrlich, Rutgers)
Ehrlich reminds readers, "If plagiarism is to be combated, it must be done regularly throughout the semester, not just at the end."

Links of Interest

Electronic Plagiarism Seminar (Gretchen Pearson, Le Moyne College)
Preventing Cyber-Plagiarism (Penn State)
The New Plagiarism: Seven Antidotes to Prevent Highway Robbery in an Electronic Age (Jamie McKenzie)

Resources to Share with Students
Avoiding Plagiarism (Purdue OWL)
Avoiding Plagiarism: Mastering the Art of Scholarship (UC Davis)
Biology Program Guide on Plagiarism (U of British Columbia)

Plagiarism Overview, English Department, Edmonds Community College

Draft Plagiarism Statement

  • The college advises instructors to address academic dishonesty explicitly in syllabi and instructional materials. Instructors are also urged to create curricula that encourage original work and that minimize the possibility of plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty. Similarly, the college requires students to become informed about all types of academic dishonesty and to actively avoid them.
  • Whether based on ignorance, carelessness, or intentional deceit, plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty and cheating are serious problems requiring intervention from instructors and even college administrators. The degree of the intervention and discipline depends upon the type and extent of the problem.
  • See definitions of academic dishonesty below under “Academic Misconduct and Dishonesty” –adapted from UW-Bothell.

Suggestions for Minimizing Plagiarism

  • Include Plagiarism/Academic Dishonesty Policy in Syllabi and other course materials.
  • Provide Explicit Instruction (e.g., how to avoid plagiarism, how to avoid “under-documenting,” how to document while researching and note-taking, etc.) See Academic Misconduct and Dishonesty below.
  • Provide Examples of actual plagiarism, detection, & results/disciplinary actions.
  • Demonstrate Blackboard’s Safe Assign or other plagiarism detectors.
  • Create multi-step assignments. (Show students that it is actually easier to do their own work than to try to recreate someone else’s process.)
  • Vary topics and assignments within individual courses and within departments.
  • Allow enough time for assignments so that students won’t feel pressured to cheat or plagiarize.
  • Help students recognize the value of their own insights and observations and/or show students multiple approaches to creating supportable observations and analyses. (Show them your discipline’s methods.)

Interventions and Disciplinary Actions

Recommended Steps:

  • In all cases, the first steps are to document the problem, contact the student, explain the suspicions of and/or proof of plagiarism or other forms academic dishonesty, and allow the student to respond.
  • Whether the plagiarism is intentional or not, the instructor should use the episode as a teaching moment to emphasize the critical importance of documenting sources and to reinforce the skill of integrating outside materials.
  • In most cases, the instructor should impose consequences, which can include the following:
    • Reducing the grade on the assignment (even if that means the student will fail the class)
    • Requiring the student to re-do the assignment using different materials
    • Contacting the Vice President for Student Services (VPSS).

Note: Instructors are advised to contact the VPSS, even for minor cases that don’t require official disciplinary action. The instructor can ask the VPSS only to record the incident. However, if the student is already in the disciplinary database, the VPSS can monitor any patterns of academic dishonesty that might develop.

What Happens When the Vice President for Student Services (VPSS) Must Take Disciplinary Steps?

  • Staff members copy all documents, check the college’s disciplinary database for previous infractions and interventions, and contact the student to schedule an appointment with either the VPSS or the Senior Associate Dean of Student Retention and Success.
  • The VPSS or Senior Associate Dean will meet with the student and work with instructor to determine appropriate disciplinary actions based on college policies and the severity of the infraction.
  • First time violators receive an official letter of reprimand and warning that will be reflected in the student’s Edmonds CC record (not the student’s transcript). Students may also receive a 0.0 assignment grade or a failing course grade. A copy of the letter goes to the college president and the instructor. (See sample letter below.)
  • The VPSS might opt to give verbal warning to the student in lieu of an official letter.
  • The VPSS Office keeps the letter on file for two years, and barring any further misconduct, the letter is removed and shredded after two years.
  • One-time offenses will not likely result in long-term or permanent disciplinary measures, but habitual or extreme offenses may result in student suspension or dismissal.
  • No notation of the incident or the disciplinary action (even if it is expulsion) will appear on the student’s transcript.
  • Students who want to appeal a disciplinary action have ten days to schedule an appointment with the college president.



This letter will serve as official notification following our meeting yesterday in my office. We met to discuss your involvement in a plagiarism incident in your History xx class.

I appreciate the fact that you readily admitted that you committed plagiarism however; academic dishonesty is a serious violation of the Guidelines for Student Conduct as published in the Students Rights and Responsibilities Code. Under the Washington Administrative Code, Chapter 132Y-125-004, subsection 2, you are in violation of subsection (a) Dishonesty, including but not limited to, cheating, plagiarism, or knowingly furnishing false information to the college.

Therefore, this letter will serve as an official reprimand and as a warning to you that any further incidents of this kind may result in additional disciplinary action against you.

If you wish to appeal this disciplinary action, you may do so by stating your appeal in writing and submitting it within ten days of the above date to the college president.

A copy of this letter will remain in the college’s confidential file for two years, at which time, barring any further incidents, it will be destroyed. This letter is not considered part of your permanent record at the college.

If you have any questions regarding the content of this letter, please contact me at 425.640.1668 or stop by my office for an appointment.

Vice President for Student Services


(2009: Used and adapted, with permission, from information received at the University of Washington-Bothell Academic Writing Center.)

Students are expected to be familiar with the Student Rights and Responsibilities, Guidelines for Student Conduct, and Disciplinary Action Procedures provided by the Office of Student Life and printed in the student handbook. Students who violate rules of academic misconduct and dishonesty are subject to disciplinary sanctions, including suspension and dismissal.
Academic misconduct and dishonesty includes, but is not limited to: Cheating, Fabrication, Facilitation, and Plagiarism.

Cheating means

  • Giving or receiving unauthorized assistance (helping other students do their assignments, taking their exams, or allowing other students to help you with your assignments or exams);
  • Intentionally using or attempting to use unauthorized materials or information (copying from another student, using a “cheat sheet” during an exam, sending or receiving text messages during an exam, accessing the Internet for answers, etc.).

Fabrication means

  • Creating false information or data and presenting it as fact (making things up);
  • Filling in “gaps” with made-up information.

Facilitation means

  • Intentionally or unintentionally helping or attempting to help another student cheat, fabricate, plagiarize, or otherwise violate any part of the Guidelines for Student Conduct;
  • Failing to stop a known violation of the Guidelines.

Plagiarism means

  • Intentionally or unintentionally using another person's original words, ideas, or research (including the words/ideas of faculty or students) in any academic assignment without explicitly identifying that person within your work.
  • Failing to provide a list of Works Cited for all outside sources consulted or used in your assignments or essays (regardless of whether or not you directly quoted those sources in your essay);
  • Failing to provide in-text citations for all information consulted or borrowed from written or electronic documents (books, magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, websites, etc).

Ways to Avoid Plagiarism:

  • Do your own work. Do not rely on the Internet or other sources for your ideas or responses.
  • Start your assignments early! Waiting until the last minute makes cheating/plagiarism too tempting.
  • Do not copy and paste information off the Internet or from any other electronic or printed source. This form of plagiarism is also a violation of copyright laws.
  • Do not copy and paste information posted by other students on Blackboard (Bb) or use someone else’s information as a source for your own postings. Remember, do your own work!
  • When writing an essay, document and cite all information borrowed from your sources, even when the information is paraphrased (restated in your own words) and not a direct quote. Citing direct quotes alone is not sufficient!
  • When paraphrasing borrowed information, use your own words, and cite each occurrence at the point in the essay where it is used (in-text citation).
  • Do not fail to give credit to the source; the author deserves credit.
  • If you have ANY questions about how to complete your assignments or sufficiently document your sources, ask your instructor, not your friends. Students are often wrong!

Consequences for Plagiarism: At Edmonds CC, the consequences for any form of plagiarism include: denial of credit for the assignment, and/or denial of credit for the course, and/or notification of the Vice President for Student Services, and/or sanctions imposed (including suspension and/or dismissal from the college) by the Vice President for Student Services as he/she deems appropriate according to the policies and procedures of the college.

When in doubt, DON’T!

2009: Used and adapted, with permission, from information received at the University of Washington-Bothell Academic Writing Center.