Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Avoiding Plagiarism

Plagiarism is both unethical and a violation of Stevens' rules for students and researchers. Learn what it is and how to avoid doing it.

What is plagiarism? Why should I cite sources?

Cartoon by Nina Paley shared freely from Mimi and Eunice


According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, to "plagiarize" means

  • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own
  • to use (another's production) without crediting the source
  • to commit literary theft
  • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else's work and lying about it afterward.

What is Plagiarism? (n.d.) Retrieved November 11, 2010, from <>

Plagiarism is wrong because..
It is unethical
It is illegal
It is against all academic codes of conduct
It robs the plagiarizer of important skills

The Fraud of Plagiarism tutorial. Retrieved December 9, 2010, from "Why is it wrong?" <>

When you quote or paraphrase another person's idea in your research paper, it is imperative that you provide a proper citation to the source you used: avoid plagiarism (presenting someone else's ideas as your own is a violation of the Honor Code) give credit to the author of the idea allow someone else to locate the source lend credibility to your work provides an excellent definition of plagiarism and gives useful examples.

Writing & Grammar Help

Examples of Plagiarism

Here are some common types of plagiarism.

  • Completely copying another's work, word-for-word without citation
  • Copying pieces of one or more sources without citations
  • Paraphrasing a small or large portion of another's work without citation
  • Improper citation (leaving out info or providing inaccurate info)
  • Mixing proper citation and no (or improper) citation
  • Copying one's own work from a previous publication or assignment without indicating that it was a previous work

Types of Plagiarism (n.d.) Retrieved August 28, 2012, from <>

Real Life Plagiarists

(click image to enlarge)


Here is an example of how plagiarism can have serious consequences. In 2006, Harvard sophomore Kaavya Viswanathan received a two-book deal from publisher Little, Brown for her book, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life. There was even interest from a film company. However, that all fell apart when Harvard’s student newspaper revealed that the book had more than 40 instances of similar or the same text as two books by Megan McCafferty, Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings.


Look at the example above. The underlined words under Sloppy Firsts are shown in their plagiarized form in bold under Opal Mehta, and you can see that there is both exact wording and close paraphrasing.


A representative of McCafferty’s publisher called it “an act of literary identity theft” (Zhou, "Publisher Rejects Soph's Apology"). Little, Brown eventually recalled and pulped all the copies of Opal Mehta and canceled Viswanathan’s contract. Remember- you CAN get caught, and the stakes can be very high.


Works Cited

Zhou, David. “Examples of Similar Passages Between Viswanathan’s Book and McCafferty’s Two Novels.” Harvard Crimson 23 Apr. 2006. Web. 22 October 2012.

---.  “Publisher Rejects Soph’s Apology.” Harvard Crimson 26 Apr. 2006. Web. 22 October 2012.


For more stories of people who got caught:

Department Style Guides

What citation style does your major use?

This useful guide, created by the University Library at California State University Long Beach, helps you explore style manuals and journal citation methods specific to academic disciplines and journals.

Plagiarism Tutorials & Information

Related Reading