Plagiarism Defined

Certain misconceptions about plagiarism are common. This explanation is intended to dispel such misunderstanding and to make clear what constitutes plagiarism under University regulations. A person who uses as part of his own writing the words, ideas, arguments, or data of another person without acknowledging what he has borrowed is guilty of plagiarism:

  • Quoting material from a particular source without indicating the source and without citing the quoted material as a quotation constitutes plagiarism.
  • Using a theme, report or abstract or a portion of a theme, report or abstract written by another person constitutes plagiarism.
  • Summarizing or paraphrasing the ideas or arguments of another person without acknowledging the source of the ideas or arguments constitutes plagiarism. It is a common misconception that the mere alteration of every third or fourth word or the alteration of the tense of a verb or the omission of occasional phrases in the original sources frees the borrower of plagiarism; it does not. Such borrowing is still plagiarism because 1) this is not a true paraphrase and 2) the source is not acknowledged.

Generally known facts (the day is 24 hours long; George Washington was the first president of the United States; Lincoln died on April 15, 1865, from an assassin's bullet) do not normally need acknowledgement because they are available in unvarying form from innumerable sources and have simply become common knowledge. A student in doubt as to whether information he/she is using need be formally acknowledged should consult his/her instructor for advice.

Plagiarism may result in failure of an assignment, failure in a course, or dismissal from the University.

See the Mississippi State student handbook for more information.

The above information was provided by the MSU English Department.