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APA Guide

What is Plagiarism?

Below is the definition of plagiarism as it appears in the Rasmussen College course catalog and syllabi:

Plagiarism is the act of representing an individual's or organization's words, thoughts, or ideas as one's own. 

Examples of plagiarism include:

  1. Using information (a paraphrase or quotation, in whole or in part) from a source without attempting to give credit to the author of that source.
  2. Using charts, illustrations, images, figures, equations, etc., without citing the source.
  3. Using an academic exercise (in whole or in part) purchased or copied from a ghostwriter or paper/essay mill.
  4. Copyright infringement or piracy, including the use, alteration, or duplication of media, software, code, or information when expressly prohibited or where copyright exists or is implied.
  5. Submitting work previously graded in another course without prior approval by the course instructor; or, submitting the same work in two or more concurrent courses without prior approval by all course instructors.
  6. Borrowing so much language (including paraphrasing and quoting) and/or ideas so that it comprises a majority of your paper or project even if citations are present.

To ensure you are not plagiarizing, always cite (document) your sources when you refer to information you learned during your research or study.  Even if you've summarized the information or if you've rephrased it into your own words, you still need to cite the source of the information.

Remember the basic rule of plagiarism:  if you use, mention, refer to, quote, summarize, paraphrase, describe...someone's else's ideas or facts, other than your own, you must cite them.  There is the whole area of "common knowledge," example: the United States has 50 states, which you do not have to cite.  .


Need help with plagiarism? Click here to view an Answer on where you can submit your paper for plagiarism review. 

6 Tips to Avoid Inadvertent Plagiarism

Plagiarized vs. Paraphrased

Paraphrasing:

  • A detailed restatement of a source's main ideas in your own words.
  • Not your opinions or interpretations of those ideas.

When incorporating a paraphrase into your writing, you will need to provide a citation, just as you would for a direct quotation. Even though you are writing in our own words, you are paraphrasing someone else's ideas. The ideas are not your own. 


When paraphrasing, you need to be careful to not plagiarize. Here are some helpful tips for paraphrasing: 

  • Read the whole passage first before restating.
  • Make sure you completely understand the passage. 
  • Write down key information from the source.
  • Put the original aside, and then re-write the passage in your own words using the key information. 
  • Follow the rule of 3:
    • Three consecutive words that are identical to the original are considered a quotation and should be cited as a direct quote. It is no longer a paraphrase.

Let's take a look at an example:

Original Passage: 

  • University of Tulsa psychologist Judy Berry studied seventy-three Oklahoma eighth graders who had taken a parenting course.  For ten days, each student had to care for a ten-pound sack of flour as if it were a baby.  Berry’s research on her young subjects suggests the course worked: The teenagers in the study had a sounder sense of parental responsibility than they did before they took the course.

Plagiarized Version: 

  • University of Tulsa psychologist Judy Berry conducted a study of eight graders who had taken a ten day parenting course. Students had to treat a ten-pound sack of flour as if it were a baby. According to Berry’s research, the course worked. After the course, students had a better understanding of parental responsibility than they did before they took the course

(Notice that much of the text is taken directly from the original source. This passage is not in the writer's own words.)

Paraphrased Correctly Versions: 

  • Extended parental role-playing can actually increase an adolescent’s awareness of parental responsibilities as shown by psychologist Judy Berry’s study involving eighth grade students (Harper, 1996).
  • In a study of eighth grade students taking a parenting course involving role-playing, Psychologist Judy Berry determined that students were more parentally responsible after taking the course (Harper, 1996).

Plagiarism Happens Outside of School Too!

There have been many instances in which authors, journalists, and even politicians have plagiarized, and in doing so they have greatly affected their careers. Here are some examples pulled from the headlines: