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Plagiarism Resources: Why Plagiarism Matters and How to Avoid It

Study resources to help you avoid plagiarism

Why is Plagiarism a Big Deal?

Plagiarism is taken seriously and many of the reasons have to do with Canadian expectations for academic integrity and academic work:

1. Originality is important in academic writing

Academics and scholars try to contribute to human knowledge by finding gaps in research and studying very specific topics in detail. As a student, you are not expected to make any big discoveries; however, some originality is still expected in your writing.

Ways to include originality in your writing:

  • Analyze the sources you use, rather than just summarizing their information.
  • Come up with your own examples to support a point.
  • Relate examples and information to your own life experiences.
  • Present your ideas in a unique way, rather than copying the structure or writing style of a source.

2. Citing sources is respectful and expected

Perhaps you grew up learning that copying portions of an author's work is a sign of respect for an author's expertise. In Canada however, copying is considered disrespectful if credit is not given to the author. Ideas are other people's work and need to be acknowledged through citations.

3. Critical analysis is important, not a sign of disrespect

Your assignments require you to analyze ideas from multiple sources, draw connections between them, and come to your own conclusions. As you read sources, remember to ask yourself questions about the information, even if it is written by an expert.

4. Academic writing is like an ongoing conversation

In academic writing, authors respond to, discuss, and build on what others have written before them. By citing your sources, you demonstrate that you consulted other sources and "listened" to the academic conversation before coming to your conclusions.  Citations prove that you have done research and make it easier for your reader to find the sources if they want to learn more.

5. Academic dishonesty devalues everyone else's hard work

If a student cheats or plagiarizes and gets away with it, everyone else's hard work is devalued.  Academic dishonesty could damage the reputation of your Columbia College credentials because employers may assume that not all graduates with the same grades did the same work or have the same skills.

How to Avoid Committing Plagiarism

1.  Manage your time well. Start your assignment early to avoid stressful or rushed situations.

2.  Take careful notes on what you read and where you find ideas:

  • As you take notes, record the source so that you can easily cite it later.
  • Make sure to identify your notes as paraphrases, summaries, or quotes.
  • Record page numbers, source titles, and authors so you can easily find the sources later.

3. Learn how to cite. Take the Citation Lesson.  Your best defense against committing plagiarism is knowing how and when to cite all types of sources.

4.  Review your paper. Ask yourself:

  • Where did this idea come from?
  • Are the words my own?
  • Can my work be clearly distinguished from the work of others? 

Check out the Avoiding Plagiarism Lesson for more resources that will help you manage your time and avoid plagiarism.

Academic Integrity

As a student, it is your responsibility to understand academic integrity and commit to it by completing your education honestly.

Academic dishonesty is also considered a serious offence.  This broad term includes plagiarism, as well as:

  • bribery,
  • using a paid service to create or write work,
  • any form of cheating (including copying from another student, or helping another student cheat.)