The Quill

I’m a busy college student juggling classes, work, and a social life. What’s the big deal if I copy and paste a few lines from a website into my papers? I hardly have time to properly cite my sources. Sometimes my professors don’t even notice! Sincerely, CrunchedForTime

Dear CrunchedForTime,

We’ve all heard the lecture. Most teachers and professors conducting any type of class will express the notion that cheating is not allowed. Plagiarism is a type of cheating in written form, in which students borrow or copy the phrases and/or ideas of another without giving credit to that individual.

As students in college with full, demanding lives, something as seemingly simple as citing sources falls low on our list of priorities. We are constantly looking for easier, quicker methods of churning out the assigned number of pages, whatever that may be. With a plethora of websites, news articles, and publications available to students both online and in print, information is accessible within seconds. The issue of plagiarism arises when this information is nonchalantly intertwined into a paragraph here and there, and students neglect to distinguish which material they have gathered from another source and which is their own.

It is important to identify material you have found from another source to enhance your credibility, and to provide the reader with a place to go to find more information. The analysis of information throughout an essay can only be accomplished if original thought is separated from borrowed ideas.

With advances in technology, it has become easier for students to copy written information and material, but it has also become simpler for teachers to uncover. Professors can purchase software that is capable of detecting even the most minute signs of plagiarism within seconds. Plagiarized material can be fairly simple to detect even without the aid of technology; the particular voice of a writer throughout a paper can be drastically different from the voice of whoever authored the information that was copied. The consequences of plagiarizing can range from a 0 on the particular assignment submitted to dismissal from the college or university you attend.

How do you avoid plagiarism in general? Make sure you document your sources and the places where you got your information! Quote any sentences that were directly taken from another source, and make sure that you also cite any information that has been paraphrased or summarized.

As you find yourself moving from class to class in college and closer to starting your own career outside of school, expectations are raised. Cutting corners on research papers and other assignments will become more difficult, and more emphasis will be placed on the synthesis of ideas from research. School is a place to develop your own voice, not adopt that of someone else.

If you find yourself struggling with citations, MLA format, or any particular aspect of plagiarism, visit the Learning Assistance Center in the Bradner Library for one-on-one help from a Writing Fellow.


By Freya Thodesen-Kasparian