What is Plagiarism?

In short, plagiarism is defined as using the ideas or writing of another as one's own without giving proper credit.*

*The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000), 9 December 2008.


...it is very difficult to define it exactly. Is it just a one-to-one copy of sentences? How much has to be copied in order to be considered a plagiarism? Is it still plagiarism if you edit the text? If you only use the order of arguments and do not copy the words?

The following joke definition attributed to Wilson Mizner circulates around the Internet:

Copy from one book = plagiarism;
Copy from two books = an essay;
Copy from three books = a compilation;
Copy from four books = a dissertation.

Today some might add: Copy from the Wikipedia = term paper.


You are committing plagiarism if you:

- Copy phrases, sentences, or passages from electronic or print sources (journal articles, the web, etc.) into your own papers and reports without giving credit by citing the original source
- Quote someone else's exact words without giving credit to the original author
- Use someone else's specific ideas even if you restate them in your own words.

[Text from:
- Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft Berlin: http://plagiat.htw-berlin.de/ff/definition/1_1/defs
- San Jose Library: www.sjlibrary.org/services/literacy/info_comp/plagiarism.htm]