Plagiarism and Academic Integrity

As a student of higher-education, maintaining academic integrity by submitting your own original work is important to your educational and personal growth. Too often, though, students commit acts of plagiarism when completing assignments, sometimes without even knowing it.

Plagiarism, as defined by Miami University, is the act of “presenting as one’s own work the ideas, representations, or the words of another person/source without proper attribution.”

Cite Your Sources:

To avoid accusations of plagiarism, authors should cite all of their sources according to the appropriate formatting guidelines (MLA, APA, Chicago Style, etc.). When any ideas found in your writing, including quotations, paraphrases, and summaries, were inspired by an outside author or source, they should be followed by an in-text citation and represented by a full-length citation in the paper’s bibliography. For more information and explanation on citations, see the MLA, APA, and Chicago Style “Documentation and Citation” resource handouts.

Common Mistakes:

Plagiarism can be characterized by a variety of suspicious behavior, not just by copy and pasting another author’s work into your own without proper citation.

  • Writing tutors often notice the strategy of “patchwriting,” when students are tempted to incorrectly paraphrase words and ideas from an outside source. Patchwriting occurs when students attempt to rearrange another author’s words to create a seemingly “original” statement.  Keep in mind that even when words are rearranged from a source, they are not an original idea, and therefore need to be cited correctly.

Example (original passage)*: Looking back, what enabled Netscape to take off was the existence, from the earlier phase, of millions of PC’s, many already equipped with modems. Those are the shoulders Netscape stood on. What Netscape did was bring a new killer app—the browser—to this installed base of PC’s making the computer and its connectivity inherently more useful for millions of people (Friedman 57).

Example (patchwriting)*: Millions of PC’s, which were already equipped with modems from the earlier phase, helped Netscape to take off. It brought the browser, a new killer app, to already-existing PC’s, making the computer connectivity much more useful to people across the globe.

  • Paraphrasing, used correctly, can be a welcome break from direct quotations in an academic paper. When paraphrasing, students select a phrase or idea from an original work to put into their own words. Since a paraphrase has a different phrasing than the original quote, it does not need to be surrounded by quotation marks. But, since the idea is the same, an in-text citation should follow.

Example (faulty paraphrase)*: In The World is Flat, Thomas L. Friedman looks back to 1995 and notes what enabled Netscape to take off when it went public was that it could stand on the shoulders of millions of existing PC’s, many already equipped with modems. Its new killer app—the browser—helped millions of people make connecting more useful.

Example (acceptable paraphrase)*: In The World is Flat, Thomas L. Friedman looks back to 1995 and notes that Netscape could make a significant impact on the emerging global economy when it went public because of its browser. When Netscape brought this new software application—the browser—to the users of modem enhanced PC’s, it made those connected computers much more useful (57).

  • Some other but lesser known examples of plagiarism include using the main idea or substance of another person’s argument, including friends, family, teachers etc., without acknowledging the source. Another example of plagiarism includes taking a work originally completed for one instructor’s class and re-submitting it to another instructor.

*Adapted from chapter 20 of The McGraw-Hill Guide: Writing for College, Writing for Life.

Identifying Plagiarism:

To combat plagiarism in the age of technology, instructors rely on various tools to determine the originality of a student’s work. When you submit a paper online at Miami, you might be notified that Turnitin, a software that compares your writing to millions of others, is enabled. Turnitin identifies what percentage of your paper is unoriginal and sends a report to you and your instructor. Other instructors may select suspicious passages in your writing and run them through search engines like Google to see if they appear anywhere on the Internet. Though instructors may use different strategies to identify plagiarism, they do so to achieve a common goal: to challenge students to communicate their own, original arguments.


When a course instructor suspects a student of committing plagiarism and academic dishonesty at Miami University, the instructor will first submit a referral to the department chair or program director. Then, the department chair/program director will notify the student of the referral via email so that a hearing can be scheduled.  This notification will include a copy of the instructor’s report, along with supporting documents.  At the hearing, conducted by the department chair or designee (a Miami faculty member or administrator), the instructor will submit all evidence of academic dishonesty and the student will be given the chance to respond, submit a written statement, present witnesses, and ask questions. Following the hearing, the department chair or his or her designee considers all evidence and statements, then concludes whether or not the student has committed academic dishonesty and informs all appropriate parties of the decision.

If a student is found not to have committed academic dishonesty, he or she will be informed of the decision in writing via email. Depending on the circumstances, no further action will be taken. However, the department chair or designee may conclude that the student could benefit from completing an educational seminar hosted by the Coordinator for Academic Integrity.

If a student is found to have committed academic dishonesty, the department chair will submit a recommended sanction to the dean of the academic unit in which the violation occurred.  If this is the first occurrence of academic dishonesty from the student, the department chair or designee will recommend any of the following sanctions, which will be enforced by the dean:

  • Failure of the assignment and/or course with a transcript notation “Academic Dishonesty (class)”
  • Participation in an Academic Integrity workshop or educational seminar
  • Suspension

If this is not the first occurrence of academic dishonesty for the student, he or she will automatically be suspended for the following semester. If the student was previously suspended for the same offense, he or she will be dismissed from Miami University.








**Adapted from Miami University’s Undergraduate Student Academic Integrity Policy