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Copyright: Plagiarism

Copyright Compliance Officer

Elizabeth Fox
Briggs Library, Box 2115
South Dakota State University
Brookings, SD 57007-1098
Room 123
Skype Contact


Plagiarism is a related concept to copyright. While copyright is a legal concept, plagiarism is an ethical one. It can, on occassion, cross over and become a copyright violation and thus be both an ethical and legal problem for someone.

What is plagiarism?

According to the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (2003, p. 946), to plagiarize is "to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own: use (another's production) without crediting the source." This definition is not plagiarized because I credited the source although I did not make up the definition.

Examples of plagiarism

Buying a paper from a paper mill online or from another student and turning it in as your own work.

Writing your own paper but copying text from other sources without using quotation marks and citations.

Writing your own paper but using ideas from others without citing them.

Avoiding plagiarism

Avoiding plagiarism is really very easy. Cite everything you use from another author. If you use their exact words, use quotation marks and cite them. You don't need to cite information that is commonly known; however. For instance, if I were to use the sentence The United States is on the continent of North America, I would not need to cite my source as this is commonly known. When in doubt, cite your source - it is better to have too many citations than not enough.

Consequences of plagiarism

For students at SDSU, plagiarism is covered in the student code - Chapter 1:10:27. Punishments are up to the instructor and are generally mild for a first offense. After you have had the opportunity to learn about plagiarism, if you continue to do it, consequenses can increase. You can flunk an assignment or a course and it can even end up in a student conduct hearing. After SDSU, the consequences can get much worse. One example of this is an fine arts professor at the Parson's School of Design who had to resign his job after he was caught copying parts of another person's book in his own. The professor had taught at Parson's for 30 years. In this example, the professor was guilty not only of the ethical infraction, but was probably guilty of copyright infractions as well but he was not tried in court for copyright (Smallwood, 2004).



Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. (2003). (11th ed.). Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, Inc.

Smallwood, S. (2004). Professor at new school U. resigns. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 51(6), 14-A14. Retrieved from

Paraphrasing without plagiarism

Paraphrasing is expressing someone else's ideas in your own words. While citing someone else's ideas is necessary to avoid plagiarizing, it is not all that is required. Paraphrasing involves more than just changing a couple words. It requires that the author have a good understanding of original text so the meaning can be expressed in a different way. A good paraphrase can move an idea from one context into another, making the idea relevant to the current context. A bad paraphrase changes the order of the sentenses and uses a few synonyms to replace individual words.

Here are some hints for creating a good paraphrase:

  1. Relate the information in your own words and in your own sentence structure
  2. Don't add additional comments or elaborations (you can add them after the paraphrase)
  3. Relate useful information, not distinctive phrasing
  4. Relate the main points of the passage
  5. Includes around the same number of words as the original. This makes it different from a summary.
  6. Use quotation marks for any unique terms or phrases

Original text:

"The economic rights enable creators to control the reproduction, performance, and broadcast of their intellectual property. The moral rights honor a creator's right to be identified as the creator of the work and to object to its distortion or mutilation" (Scientific Style and Format, 2006, p. 21).

Poor paraphrase:

According to the authors of Scientific Style and Format, moral rights honor an author's desire to be known as the author of the book and to object to its misrepresentation or destruction. Economic rights, on the other hand, allow authors to say how their work can be copied, performed or broadcast (2006, p. 21).

In this paraphrase, the order of the sentences were changed and a few words were changed for synonyms. Even though there is a citation, this could still be considered plagiarized.

Good paraphrase:

According to the authors of Scientific Style and Format, there are different kinds of rights associated with copyright. Those that are economic in nature allow a creator to control how their work is used in specific ways defined by copyright law. Moral rights, on the other hand include being given credit for work done (2006, p. 21).

In this paraphrase, the meaning of the original text is retained but it is reworded in such a way that it becomes more relevant to a discussion of what copyright and plagiarism are.

Scientific Style and Format : The Case Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers.(2006) (7th ed., pp. xvi, 658 p.). Reston, Va.: Council of Science Editors in cooperation with the Rockefeller University Press.

Books on Plagiarism

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