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What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is taking someone else's words, ideas, or work and passing them off as your own. 

Plagiarism may be intentional or unintentional and can happen in many different ways, including:

  • Turning in someone else's completed work as if it was your own. This includes assignments/papers you hand in that were completed or written by a classmate, friend, or family member, or that was purchased from a paper writing or homework service
  • Buying a paper online or written by someone else
  • Copying significant portions of a single text without using quotations and providing a citation or attribution
  • Changing select words or phrases but keeping the essential structure and meaning of a passage, with or without citation.
  • Using false or inaccurate citations
  • Using images, audio, or video
  • Using images, audio, or video for any purpose without giving credit to the original creator
  • Using statistics without citing the original source

Plagiarism is a violation of the RVCC Academic Honesty Policy accessible in the link below.

What is plagiarism and how to avoid it (video)

From Brock University Library

Terms you should know


The acknowledgement that something came from another source. This may be done with a formal citation or informally as in the following sentence: 

Jack Bauer, in his article "Twenty-Four Reasons not to Plagiarize," maintains that cases of plagiarists being expelled by academic institutions have risen dramatically in recent years due to an increasing awareness on the part of educators.


A list of sources consulted to prepare a work


A formal reference to a source that is quoted, paraphrased, or referenced in a work. Citations are used in academic writing and conform to specific formatting guidelines used in a discipline (for example, MLA or APA style).


To quote or paraphrase from a specific source or to indicate the source of information using a standard format for the discipline.

Common Knowledge

Information that is readily available from a number of sources or so well-known that its sources do not have to be cited. For example, the fact that carrots are a source of Vitamin A is common knowledge so you can include this information in your work without citing a source. However, any information regarding the effects of Vitamin A on the human body are likely to be the products of original research and would have to be cited.


A law protecting the intellectual property of individuals, giving them exclusive rights over the distribution and reproduction of that material.

Create Commons (CC) License

A form of copyright standard that grants the public permission to use licensed works in ways that are prohibited under traditional copyright. 


Notes or citations listed on a separate page at the end of a paper acknowledging sources and providing references or information.


Knowledge or information based on real, observable occurrences. Facts can be considered intellectual property as well. If you discover a fact that is not common knowledge - widely known or readily found in several other places - you should cite the source.

Fair Use

The guidelines for determining when a copyrighted source can be legally used without obtaining permission. 


Notes or citations listed on at the bottom of the page acknowledging sources and providing references or information.

Intellectual Property

Creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. Intellectual property can be protected in law by such things as copyright, patents, and trademarks.


A restatement of a text or passage in your own words. It is important to know that changing a few words from an original source does not qualify as paraphrasing. A paraphrase must make significant changes in the style and voice of the original while keeping the essential ideas.


The reproduction, copying, or use of someone else's work or ideas without proper attribution to the person whose intellectual property you are using.

Public Domain

Being available to or belonging to the public as a whole and not subject to copyright restrictions.


Using someone else's exact words. You must give attribution to the person you are quoting.


Copying or reusing work you have previously produced and passing it off as a new work. Self-plagiarism is banned by most academic policies.

10 Most Common Types of Plagiarism

Plagiarism is not always a black and white issue. The boundary between plagiarism and research is often unclear. Learning to recognize the various forms of plagiarism, especially the more ambiguous ones, is an important step towards effective prevention.

Read through the 10 types of plagiarism identified by The Plagiarism Spectrum project.