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Plagiarism: What It Is, How to Avoid It, and How to Detect It

What Is It?
How Do I Avoid It?
How Do I Detect It?
How Do I Help Students Avoid It?

What Is It?

The Oxford American dictionary defines plagiarism as "(the use of) another person's ideas or writings or inventions as one's own." The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary adds the following entries for plagiarism:

  1. to use without crediting the source.
  2. to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.
  3. to commit literary theft.

The UALR Student Handbook defines it as:

“To adopt and reproduce as one’s own, to appropriate to one’s own use, and incorporate in one’s own work without acknowledgement the ideas or passages from the writings or works of others.”

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How Do I Avoid It?

United States copyright laws protect intellectual property rights. A basic overview of these protections can be found at http://www.copyright-laws.com/pgs/copyright-basics.html.

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How Do I Detect It?

Faculty have over the years developed several strategies for detecting plagiarism—most of which involve a lot of time checking and reviewing students’ sources. The advent of the Internet has made plagairism easier to commit, but it has also provided some tools to make it easier to detect.

The best known strategy is to “Google” or otherwise search the Internet for selected phrases from a student’s written work to see if it matches any existing electronic source. This strategy, however, may not detect papers or other text that have come from a non-electronic source or from what have been called the “paper mills.”

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How Do I Help Students Avoid It?

The Plagairism section of this website under Information for Students is a resource for your students. Please consider including a link to that section (and to Copyright Central in general), on your course syllabus and/or handouts. Other resources are listed under the More Resources for faculty and staff that you could share with your students.

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Remember that copyright is an area where there is still much ambiguity. Future legislation and court decisions will continue to shape copyright law. Information provided on this website should not be construed as legal advice.