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All About Plagiarism

This guide includes information on the ins and outs of plagiarism, what it looks like, how to avoid it, and some famous examples.

from the NWACC Student Handbook


Plagiarism results when a student presents the words or ideas of someone else as if they were his/her own. If the words of someone other than the writer are reproduced without acknowledgment of the source or if someone else’s ideas are paraphrased in such a way that leads the reader to believe they originated with the writer, then plagiarism has occurred.

Plagiarism can be either intentional or unintentional. Intentional plagiarism is the knowing, deliberate copying or downloading or buying of information with the intent of passing it off as original with the writer. Intentional plagiarism is a very serious form of academic dishonesty that can lead to suspension from the College. Unintentional plagiarism is the misrepresentation of information through ignorance or carelessness. It is the responsibility of all Northwest Arkansas Community College students to understand what plagiarism is, and to learn the proper methods of documentation so as to avoid this form of academic dishonesty.

Plagiarism: What It is and How to Recognize and Avoid It

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the act of using someone else’s ideas or words without acknowledging the original source. It can be done on purpose, such as when a student purchases or downloads a paper and submits it as her own work. It can also be done on accident, if a student doesn’t understand how to properly acknowledge information sources in a research paper.

Consequences of Student Plagiarism

Regardless of intent, plagiarism can damage a student’s reputation and lead to grave consequences such as failing an assignment or failing a course. You can learn more about NWACC’s specific policies regarding plagiarism and other violations of academic honesty in the Student Handbook.  

Avoiding Plagiarism

As a student, it is your responsibility to understand what plagiarism is and how to avoid it. In research papers, you must incorporate the words or ideas of others with your own thoughts and analysis. You can avoid plagiarism by clearly communicating which ideas are yours and which ideas originate from other sources.

Quotations, Paraphrases and Summaries

There are three basic methods of incorporating the thoughts or words of someone else in a research paper: quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing. This chart explains the main requirements of each.




Document the original source.

Document the original source.

Document the original source.

Put quotation marks around any words you copy exactly from the original source.

Choose words that differ significantly from the original.

Choose words that differ significantly from the original.

Use sparingly and choose wisely. Limit quotations to phrases or sentences that really pack a punch.

Develop phrase, sentence and paragraph structures that differ significantly from the original.

Develop phrase, sentence and paragraph structures that differ significantly from the original.

Avoid “dropped quotes” by integrating them smoothly into your sentences and paragraphs.

Accurately communicate the intent of the original source.

Express the most important information or ideas in a condensed format objectively (without your opinions).

Common Knowledge

You must always give credit to your information sources, unless you are writing about common knowledge. Most experts agree common knowledge is information that is both known by a large number of people and verifiable in an extensive array of credible source. People interpret these criteria differently, depending on the individual, context and audience. To play it safe, err on the side of caution and credit your information sources—or ask your instructor if you have any questions whether the information you wish to use is considered common knowledge.

Examples:  Common knowledge (no documentation required)

Plagiarism for profit can lead to severe legal and financial consequences.
People who plagiarize risk damaging their careers and reputations.


Examples:  Information not considered common knowledge (documentation required):

Dropped quote (not acceptable in academic writing):  “Tom Squitieri, a 16-year veteran of USA Today, resigned from the newspaper yesterday after his editors said he lifted quotations from other newspapers without attribution” (Seelye).
Integrated quote: Amid accusations he “lifted quotations from other newspapers without attribution,” USA Today journalist Tom Squitieri left his long-term position (Seelye).
Paraphrase with signal phrase: According to New York Times writer Katharine Seeyle, journalist Tom Squitieri left USA Today amid plagiarism accusations.
Paraphrase without signal phrase: Journalist Tom Squitieri left his position at USA Today amid plagiarism accusations (Seeyle).


Work Cited

Seelye, Katharine Q. "USA Today Reporter Quits Over Lifting Quotations." New York Times, 6 May 2005, p. C5(L). Health & Wellness Resource Center,

Documentation Styles

In college, you will be expected to follow established guidelines for source documentation (also called citation or attribution). There are a variety of established guidelines for doing so, and many of your instructors require a specific style, including--but not limited to--MLA, APA, Chicago, and ASA.

Please see the Citation Help page for more tips and tools for documenting sources.


Help Is Available!

Crafting acceptable paraphrases, integrating quotations, and documenting sources are difficult tasks. Please take advantage of the expert assistance available to you at NWACC. Your instructors are excellent sources of help, and most are available to meet with you individually to help you understand assignment requirements and develop your skills.

Here are other excellent sources of expert assistance:

Plagiarism Tutorials