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Do you know what plagiarism is? Does your student?

To plagiarize, by definition, is “to present the ideas or words of another as one’s own.” (Merriam-Webster’s, 1997) Many articles and commentaries have been written over the past number of years underscoring the growing occurrences of plagiarism in academic settings and in the public arena. “Academic Integrity is a fundamental value of teaching, learning, and scholarship. Yet, there is growing evidence that students cheat and plagiarize.” (Clemson, 2010) Entire organizations and websites exist in an effort to counteract the trend toward unauthorized use of intellectual property.

Dr. Kristina Chew of St. Peter’s College in New Jersey recently blogged that a survey of undergraduate college students in the United States indicated that as many as 40% of the students polled acknowledged that they had plagiarized “at least a few sentences on written assignments” (Chew, 2010), yet when questioned further, only 29% of those students felt that copying directly from the Internet was cheating. Despite the growing concern about this trend, and the severe penalties being imposed by colleges and universities across America, plagiarism continues to be a significant problem in the academic and intellectual realm.

In an effort to assist the faculty and students with this difficult issue, the English department and Student Services Office have published a document outlining the standards for written work at Greenbrier Christian Academy. The Gator Guide establishes expectations for all student work submitted for evaluation. It serves as a reference for the faculty for consistently applying the expectations for research, writing, the citation of sources, avoiding plagiarism, and the penalties for plagiarism in student work.   Excerpts of this document are included below so that you might understand how to help your student avoid these common errors. (Click on the links below to read this information).

Acknowledging Sources, Avoiding Plagiarism

Whenever you do research-based writing, you find yourself entering a conversation- reading what many others have had to say about your topic, figuring out what you yourself think, and then putting what you think in writing- “putting in your oar”, as the rhetorician Kenneth Burke once wrote. As a writer, you need to acknowledge any words and ideas that come from others- to give credit where credit is due, to recognize the various authorities and many perspectives you have considered, to show readers where they can find your sources, and to situate your own arguments in the ongoing conversation. Using other peoples’ words and ideas without acknowledgement is plagiarism, a serious academic and ethical offense. This chapter will show you how to acknowledge the materials you use and avoid plagiarism.


Acknowledging Sources

When you insert in your text information that you’ve obtained from others, your reader needs to know where your source’s words or ideas begin and end. Therefore, you should introduce a source by naming the author in a SIGNAL PHRASE, and follow it with a brief parenthetical IN-TEXT CITATION or by naming the author in a parenthetical citation. (You need only a brief citation here, since your readers will find full bibliographic information in your list of WORKS CITED [MLA] or REFERENCES [APA].)

Sources that need acknowledgement. You almost always need to acknowledge any information that you get from a specific source. Material you should acknowledge includes the following:

  • Direct quotations. Any words that you quote from another source must e enclosed in quotation marks, cited with brief bibliographic information in parentheses, and introduced with a signal phrase that tells who wrote it and provides necessary contextual information, as in the following sentence:
    • In a dissenting opinion on the issue of racial preferences in college admissions, Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argues, “The stain of generations of racial oppression is still visible in our society, and the determination to hasten its removal remains vital” (Gratz v. Bollinger).
  • Arguable statements and information that may not be common knowledge. If you state something about which there is disagreement or for which arguments can be made, cite the source of your statement. If in doubt about whether you need to give the source of an assertion, provide it. As part of an essay on “fake news” programs like The Daily Show, for example, you might make the following assertion:
    • The satire of The Daily Show complements the conservative bias of Fox News, since both have abandoned the stance of objectivity maintained by mainstream news sources, notes Michael Hoyt, executive editor of the Columbia Journalism Review (43).

Others might argue that the contention that the Fox News Channel offers biased reports of the news, so the source of this assertion needs to be acknowledged. In the same essay, you might present information that should be cited because it’s not widely known, as in this example:

According to a report by the Pew Research Center, 21 percent of Americans under thirty got the information about the 2004 presidential campaign primarily from “fake news” and comedy shows like The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live (2).


  • The opinions and assertions of others. When you present the ideas, opinions, and assertions of others, cite the source. You may have rewritten the concept in your own words, but the ideas were generated by someone else and must be acknowledged, as they are here:
    • Social philosopher David Boonin, writing in the Journal of Social Philosophy, asserts that logically, laws banning marriage between people of different races are not discriminatory since everyone of each race is affected equally by them. Laws banning same-sex unions are discriminatory, however, since they apply only to people with a certain sexual orientation (256).


  • Any information that you didn’t generate yourself. If you did not do the research or compile the data yourself, cite your source. This goes for interviews, statistics, graphs, charts, visuals, photographs- anything you use that you did not create. If you create a chart using data from another source, you need to cite that source.
  • Collaboration with and help from others. In many of your courses and in work situations, you’ll be called on to work with others. You may get help with your writing at your school’s writing center or from fellow students in your writing courses. Acknowledging such collaboration or assistance, in a brief informational note, is a way of giving credit- and saying thank you. See guidelines for writing notes in the MLA and APA sections of this book.
  • Sources that don’t need acknowledgement. Widely available information and common knowledge do not require acknowledgement. What constitutes common knowledge may not be clear, however. When in doubt, provide a citation, or ask your instructor whether the information needs to be cited. You generally do not need to cite the following sources:
    •  Information that readers are likely to know. You don’t need to acknowledge information that is widely known or commonly accepted as fact. For example, in a literary analysis, you wouldn’t cite a source saying that Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin; you can assume your readers already know that. On the other hand, you should cite the source from which you go the information stating that the book was first published in installments in a magazine and then, with revisions, in book form, because that information isn’t common knowledge. As you do research in areas you’re not familiar with be aware that what constitutes common knowledge isn’t always clear; the history of the novel’s publication would be known to Stowe scholars and would likely need no acknowledgement in an essay written for them. In this case, too, if you aren’t sure whether to acknowledge information, do so.
    • Information and documents that are widely available. If a piece of information appears in several sources or reference works or if a document has been published widely, you needn’t cite a source for it. For example, the date when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed a spacecraft on the moon can be found in any number of reference works. Similarly, the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address are reprinted in thousands of sources, so the ones where you found them need no citation.
    • Well known quotations. These include such famous quotations as Lady Macbeth’s “Out, damned spot!” and John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Be sure, however, that the quotation is correct; Winston Churchill is said to have told a class of schoolchildren, “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up. Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.” His actual words, however, taken from a longer speech, are much different and begin “Never give in.”
    •  Material that you created or gathered yourself. You need not cite photographs that you took, graphs that you composed, or material from an interview of data from an experiment or survey that you conducted- though you should make sure readers know that the work is yours.


A good rule of thumb: when in doubt, cite your source. You’re unlikely to be criticized for citing too much- but you may invite charges of plagiarism by citing too little.

Excerpt/article taken from:


Bullock, R., Goggin, M. D., & Weinbert, F. (2008). The Norton field guide to writing with readings and handbook (pp. 370-374). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.


Bullock, Richard, Maureen D. Goggin and Francine Weinbert. The Norton Field Guide to Writing with  readings and handbook. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008. 370-374. Print.


Plagiarism: Instructional Outline by Grade Level

Intentional plagiarism is considered a significant cheating offense. Original thoughts and written or verbal communication are the property of the originator. Unauthorized use of this property is comparable to stealing and contradictory to scriptural instruction. Understanding the potential consequences of this type of action, GCA students are taught to recognize and avoid plagiarism in all forms.

Grade Level Specific Learning Objectives

Grades 4-5

Implicit instruction on plagiarism begins in the fourth grade; however, the concept is introduced as early as second grade through Foundations & Frameworks instruction as students use process questions and visual tools to organize information from a text. Throughout the lower school grades, the teachers play a key part in helping the student understand and avoid plagiarism.

Grades 6-8

The student will be able to:

  • Define plagiarism.
  • Explain why plagiarism is wrong and should be avoided in written and verbal forms of communication.
  • Identify and correct improperly utilized information in given examples.
  • Differentiate between primary and secondary sources.
  • Properly paraphrase researched material.
  • Recognize bias in various sources of information.

Grades 9-12

Students in grades 9-12 should demonstrate mastery of the previously indicated objectives. Additionally, advanced students will be able to:

  • Follow the proper format for in-text citations and works cited or reference pages.
  • Analyze the validity of various research sources.
  • Discern and select appropriate sources of information.

Academic Consequences of Plagiarism

Episodes of plagiarism will be dealt with by faculty and administration on a case by case basis to determine the validity of the charge and the intention of the student. If it is determined that the work is deliberately plagiarized, penalty is assessed in accordance with the following guidelines.

Grades 4-5:

Fourth grade students that plagiarize on an assignment:

  • will lose a minimum of 20 points off their grade (the final decision of academic penalty will be determined by the teacher and administration).
  • will be required to redo the assignment.
  • will receive appropriate disciplinary action.


Fifth grade students that plagiarize on an assignment:

  • will lose a minimum of 30 points on their grade (the final decision of academic penalty will be determined by the teacher and administration).
  • will be required to redo the assignment.
  • will receive appropriate disciplinary action.


Grades 6-8:

Sixth through eighth grade students that plagiarize on an assignment:

  • will lose a minimum of 50 points off their grade (the final decision of academic penalty will be determined by the teacher and administration).
  • will be required to redo the assignment.
  • will receive appropriate disciplinary action.

Grades 9-12:

Ninth through twelfth grade students that plagiarize on an assignment:

  • will receive a zero on the assignment.
  • will be required to redo the assignment.
  • will receive appropriate disciplinary action according to the cheating policy (ISS).