How to avoid plagiarism

What is plagiarism?

  • Submitting the work of another person as original work.
  • Paraphrasing or directly quoting material from a source without sufficient or appropriate acknowledgment.

Plagiarism takes many forms, including:

  • self-plagiarism: submitting an assignment or part of an assignment written for another course or purpose
  • working on an assignment with another person when asked to hand in individual work
  • failing to differentiate clearly between your words and the language of your source
  • failing to note areas of agreement between your work and the work of other writers
  • using quotation marks in the wrong place
  • providing inadequate or incomplete footnotes or references
  • submitting a paper from the internet. Remember these can be traced!
  • putting together ideas from various sources (patchwork) without putting them in the context of your work, or without offering original work

Your rights and responsibilities

  • Cheating and plagiarizing are serious academic offences. Depending on the severity of the case, penalties may include a zero on the assignment, a failing grade, a record on the student’s transcript, or a suspension.
  • Plagiarism is sometimes due to ignorance or confusion, but it is your responsibility to know the rules. Different disciplines may have different norms so clarify the rules with your instructor.
  • Students are entitled to a fair process. The academic department must notify you in writing and provide you with a reasonable opportunity to be heard.

How to avoid plagiarism

  • Ask your instructor, TA, or department about the appropriate style for referencing sources.
  • If you hire a tutor, remember that their role is only to critique your work. The submitted paper must be entirely written by you.
  • When doing group work, ask the instructor or TA to clarify to what extent students are allowed to work together, and what is to be done separately.
  • Keep an accurate record of all your sources, including page numbers.
  • Always distinguish between your ideas and the ideas of others, your words and the words of others. Acknowledge areas of agreement between you and others.
  • Keep copies of your work in progress, and consider submitting an early version of your work to the instructor or TA for comments.
  • If you’re not sure, ask questions and keep your instructor or TA in the loop.

I’ve been accused of plagiarism. What do I do?

  • Consult your course outline/syllabus and the undergraduate or graduate policy on academic integrity.
  • Consider the concerns raised by the instructor or chair/director: did you do something contrary to the policy?
  • Think about what to say to the instructor or chair/director.
  • The ombudsperson can help if you have questions about your rights, your responsibilities, the process, or how to prepare for an interview with the instructor, chair or director.

I need help. What can the ombudsperson do?

  • Meet with you at any point in the process.
  • Provide information about your rights and responsibilities.
  • Help you understand how to prepare for an interview with a chair.
  • Clarify how the policy works.
  • Explain what penalties may be applied and how they are recorded.
  • Provide guidance or feedback if you think you have grounds for appeal.


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