Plagiarism: Grey Areas

Plagiarism is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the practice of taking someone else’s work, idea, etc., and passing it off as ones own; literary theft”[i]. CPAWSB’s definition is similar: submitting another person’s work as your own. Despite these definitions, students and candidates find themselves in situations where they are unsure whether they may be participating in plagiarism. Below we highlight a few of those situations.

Participating in Study Groups

Situation:

Your study group is discussing an assignment and developing a solution together, with most members taking notes throughout the discussion. One person, who contributed most of the ideas throughout the discussion, did not have a chance to take notes and asks you to share the ones you took. You agree, having contributed only a little during the discussion. You each complete your assignments independently; however, because you worked from the same set of notes, the assignment responses are similar. Most of the original ideas belonged to the person you shared your notes with, but the notes were yours. Is this plagiarism? If so, who is at fault?

Outcome:

Because the responses are similar, you will both be investigated for plagiarism. To avoid this, brainstorm within your group, contribute equally to discussions, and then complete your assignments on your own.

Citing Sources

Situation:

You have used online resources to complete your assignments, yet your assignment shows a high amount of copied content linked to those online sources. You have loosely referred throughout the paper to the sources you used, but not properly. Is this plagiarism?

Outcome:

Depending on how loosely these sources are cited, you could be under plagiarism investigation and facing academic penalties. Be sure to properly cite your sources when you use another person’s work within your assignments.

Performing Online Research

Situation:

Life has gotten in the way and you had little time to complete your assignments. Fortunately, you found an online source that contains answers to the assignment. You hand this in. Have you completed online research or plagiarism?

Outcome:

It is never acceptable to use or purchase assignments from others, regardless of the source. The School uses sophisticated anti-plagiarism software to match assignments submitted from across the country and in previous years. Always submit your own work.

OED Online. Oxford University Press. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/plagiarism. Retrieved 2 August 2017