On Plagiarism

What follows is a list of forms, exemptions, and disciplinary actions with regard to plagiarism.

Forms of Plagiarism

Plagiarism in my courses includes but is not limited to:

  • The use of another person’s academic work, in part or in total, without giving proper credit, attribution, or citation
  • Unauthorized collaboration, regardless of credit given (i.e. group work)
  • Representing another person’s work, in part or in total,  as your own
  • Changing the sentence structure, word order, or word choice of another’s work in a superficial way to pass it off as your own

The “Common Knowledge” Clause

Material does not have to be cited if it is considered common knowledge—that is, knowledge that most American high school graduates would know. Common knowledge is not defined as “what any high school graduate could find out;” otherwise, copying off of Wikipedia would not be considered plagiarism. In fact, copying from Wikipedia is a very common form of plagiarism. Instead, examples of “common knowledge” (i.e. claims that don’t requite attribution) would include things like:

  • Early humans once painted in caves.
  • The Puritans were British settlers in the New World.
  • Berlin is the capital of Germany.

The “Textbook" Clause

Material does not have to be cited if both of these points are true:

  • If the information contained in a student’s work is found in a course textbook or other assigned reading
  • And, if that information is presented in such a way that the work is not copying or nearly copying the reading material

For example, if a student's textbook lists the Stone Age as beginning in 3,000 BCE, then students can simply include this date. However, if a student copied (or, “nearly” copied) a full sentence or more from the textbook, say as part of an essay, then that would count as plagiarism. It’s one thing to list a date or event from a textbook; it’s a whole other thing to copy portions of a textbook.

The “10% Rule”

As a general rule, a college assignment is considered an original work only if the vast majority of text is original. The general rule of thumb is that no more than 10% of a work can be someone else’s words, regardless of whether those words were properly cited.


When reviewing a possible case of plagiarism, the student’s intent will not be taken into consideration. In other words, an act of plagiarism is an act of plagiarism whether or not the student claims to have intended to plagiarize.

Mistakes & Accidents

When reviewing a possible case of plagiarism, the possibility that the student mistakenly or accidentally committed plagiarism will not be taken into consideration. For example, if a student quotes another source but does not cite that source, and later claims this was on accident (and, perhaps, even goes to the effort to present a Works Cited page after being accused of plagiarism), such an alleged “mistake" will still count as an act of plagiarism.

Appeal to Ignorance

When reviewing a possible case of plagiarism, a student’s claim to ignorance with concern to policy will not be treated as a valid justification of plagiarism. As stated in the Course Addendum (found in Canvas), it is the student’s responsibility to review the course policies on plagiarism. By enrolling in my course, a student agrees to be answerable to all course expectations as provided in the College Handbook, Syllabus, Course Addendum, Official Messages & Emails, Course Content, and all other professorial instruction, both verbal and written.


While students are permitted to study together, students are not permitted to collaborate on an essay, discussion post, quiz, test, or any written assignment. Further, while a student is permitted to have someone else proofread his or her essay before submission for grading, the proofreading process can only entail matters of grammar, spelling, and method of statement. Students are not authorized to have their work reviewed before submission for the purpose of ensuring the correct use of course concepts as this would be de facto collaboration.

Disciplinary Action for Plagiarism

Per departmental policy, the first offense of plagiarism will result in a zero for the assignment. Any additional acts of plagiarism will result in an F for the course and possible disciplinary action by the Dean (e.g. expulsion).