Plagiarism Awareness and Avoidance

What is plagiarism?

According to the Willamette University Plagiarism Policy "Cheating is any form of intellectual dishonesty or misrepresentation of one's knowledge. Plagiarism, a form of cheating, consists of representing someone else's work as one's own." Websites such as iParadigm's, Turnitin, and Purdue University's "Is It Plagiarism Yet?" provide a wealth of information for both instructors and students to help identify, avoid, and deter plagiarism.

It is plagiarism to:

  • turn in another person's work as your own
  • copy another person's words or ideas without credit or acknowledgment
  • directly quote another person's without putting the quotation in quotation marks
  • provide false or misleading information about sources

Ideas or materials taken from another source, including the work of other students, must be fully acknowledged unless the material is common knowledge. Give credit and acknowledgment whenever you:

  • directly quote another person's actual words, either written or spoken
  • paraphrase or use the substance of another person's ideas, opinions or theories
  • include another person's tabulation of facts, statistics, images or other illustrative material
  • assemble or collect material created by others

Willamette University takes plagiarism violations very seriously, so be sure you understand what plagiarism is, how to prevent it, and why it is so important to the quality of academic life at Willamette. Think you already know how to recognize plagiarized material? Try this short quiz from Indiana University. You might be quite surprised!

Why do students plagiarize?

Understanding the situations that are most likely to lead to plagiarism can help stop it before it starts.

  • Poor study and time management habits; underestimating the amount of time or extent of work required for an assignment
  • Misunderstanding the difference between searching and researching - students fail to understand the value of analysis and interpretation of data
  • Lack of interest in or sense of ownership of assignments
  • Students' perceptions of their skills: the work has already been done by people who know more and can write better
  • Grade pressure, "everyone does it" - students focus on end results and not the skills learned in the process; working honestly places students at a disadvantage to their peers who do plagiarize
  • Unintentional plagiarism - ignorance of proper citation, paraphrase confusion, sloppy note taking and bibliographic records, confusion about what "good research" entails.

Steps to Prevention

Help students organize their work by providing scheduled stages of progress. Have them submit bibliographies, outlines and drafts before the final work is due.

Teach students that processing information - interpretation, analysis and synthesis - are the real skills. Virtually anyone can hunt down information on the internet; the important part is what they do with that information.

Give specific, personalized writing assignments

Emphasize to students that you value their understanding of the topic and are interested in the development of their own style and voice. Their experiences give them a unique point of view and the opportunity to explore interesting angles that might have been missed by the "experts."

Explain to students that grades are not all that matters; if they have not developed the actual research and writing skills required to earn those grades, it will be readily apparent to evaluators in the future.

It is important to identify those students who do plagiarize to take pressure off those who are afraid of falling behind their peers.

Don't assume that students understand the requirements of good research documentation. Give them the benefit of your experience (using colored pens, sticky notes, Zotero, etc.) to help them build a repertoire of techniques. Discuss examples of appropriate paraphrase, provide models of proper citation.

Using Turnitin

Willamette University subscribes to, a widely-used plagiarism prevention and education service that allows access via the web for instructors and students.

For Instructors: Turnitin is available through the WISE Assignments tool or as a stand-alone service. Turnitin can be used in two ways: have students submit draft papers to help them identify and fix problem areas OR submit final papers for plagiarism detection. If you have questions about using Turnitin, contact the WITS Help Desk ( or your User Services Consultant.

For Students: If you have questions or concerns about a possible plagiarism issue, please consult with your instructor as soon as possible. If your instructor is not using Turnitin and you are interested in obtaining a Turnitin Originality Report for a paper, contact The WITS Help Desk ( 

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