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What Is Plagiarism?
Most university students are familiar with the concept of plagiarism, i.e., taking the ideas or expression of ideas (in any fixed form such as text, images, sound, video, and so forth) without proper attribution or citation. They know that plagiarism is "bad" and that they could get in serious trouble for plagiarizing another's work. But what does this mean?
To be blunt, plagiarism is the theft of ideas. It suffocates scholarship because new ideas do not grow from the assimilation of one's unique perspective and existing ideas as they should. Theories, discoveries, experiments, and hypotheses are simply moved from one place to the next, shifted in time and space.
What if, for example, anesthesiologists just dragged old hypotheses into successive decades? We might still be breathing the chloroform handkerchief and biting bullets during surgery. Suppose engineers took the ideas of previous generations and held them out as new research, stolen and unchanged? We might all still be riding the horse and buggy, cooking over open fires, and reading by candlelight, if that much.
Plagiarism is using or passing off someone else's work as your own, whether you have taken it verbatim (exactly) or whether you have paraphrased or manipulated it. While appropriating works or ideas from other people without attribution has always been wrong, the increasing amounts of information available on the web or through scanning of print materials make it an even greater temptation. Works of all kinds are easily found and copied. Many students are unaware that such activities constitute plagiarism or feel that it is unlikely that they will be caught. Either misconception can lead to serious academic repercussions.
Examples of Plagiarism:
• Reproducing someone else's work without quotation marks and/or attribution
• Paraphrasing or summarizing another's work without attribution
• Failing to cite a source for ideas or information not commonly known
• Failing to cite a source for ideas or information that is widely known
• Using another student's work as your own
The State of North Carolina and Plagiarism
Not only is plagiarism unacceptable academic practice and a violation of University policy, the state of North Carolina has actually created a law banning this activity.
The North Carolina General Statute §14-118.2 (1999) reads:
§14-118.2 Assisting, etc. in obtaining academic credit by fraudulent means
It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, corporation or association to assist any student, or advertise, offer or attempt to assist any student, in obtaining or in attempting to obtain, by fraudulent means, any academic credit, grade, or test score, or any diploma, certificate or other instrument purporting to confer any literary, scientific, professional, technical or other degree in any course of study in any university, college, academy or other educational institution. The activity prohibited by this subsection includes, but is not limited to, preparing or advertising, offering, or attempting to prepare a term paper, thesis, or dissertation for another, impersonating or advertising, offering, or attempting to impersonate another in taking or attempting to take an examination, and the giving or changing of a grade or test score or offering to give or change a grade or test score in exchange for an article of value or money.
Any person, firm, corporation, or association violating any of the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor. The section includes the acts of a teacher or other school official; however, the provisions of this section shall not apply to the acts of one student in assisting another student as herein defined if the former is duly registered in an educational institution in North Carolina and is subject to the disciplinary authority thereof.
What does this mean?
The State of North Carolina views certain activities as illegal:
• Writing a paper for another person
• Taking an exam for another person
• Taking, or offering to take, a bribe to change a grade (course or test)
• Any other action that would "obtain by fraudulent means" a false grade for a student.
University Policy 407, The Code of Student Academic Integrity defines plagiarism as intentionally or knowingly presenting the work of another as one's own )i.e. without proper acknowledgement of the source). The sole exception to the requirement of acknowledging sources is when the ideas, information, etc., are common knowledge.
Typical Examples: Submitting as one's own work of a "ghost writer" or commercial writing service; directly quoting from a source without citation; paraphrasing or summarizing another's work without acknowledging the source; using facts, figures, graphs, charts or information without acknowledgement of the source. Plagiarism may occur orally and in writing. It may involve computer programs and files, research designs, distinctive figures of speech, ideas and images, or generally any "information" which belongs to another.
The consequences of violating the Code of Student Academic Integrity provide for a range of penalties, including failing the course, expulsion from the University and even revocation of a degree after graduation should a falsification be discovered in a thesis or dissertation. Read your Student Code!
Plagiarism is taken so seriously at UNCC that it is the only violation of the Code to warrant an attached, extensive Appendix, also worth your time to read. The Appendix contents are here.