Integrity Matters
Citing and Documenting
Surviving the Semester

Plagiarism: An Overview

Here is Williams College's basic assumption about writing: all written assignments show the student's own understanding in the student's own words. This means all writing assignments, in class or out, are assumed to be composed entirely of words generated (not simply found) by the student, except where words written by someone else are specifically marked as such using correct documentation methods. Including other people's words in your paper is helpful when you do it honestly and correctly. When you don't, it's a form of academic misconduct called plagiarism. Within the academic community and specifically at Williams College, the following rules apply:

It is plagiarism if you....

  • Copy words and present them as your own writing.
    It is the worst form of plagiarism to copy part or all of a paper from the Internet, from a book, or from another source without indicating in any way that the words are someone else's. To avoid this form of plagiarism, the paper must BOTH place the quoted material in quotation marks AND use an acceptable form of documentation to indicate where the words come from.

  • Copy words, give the source, but do not indicate that the copied words are a direct quotation.
    Simply listing the source in a footnote or bibliography is insufficient. You must also indicate that the words themselves are quoted from someone else. To avoid this form of plagiarism, put all quoted words in quotation marks or block quotations.

  • Copy words, change them a little, and give the source.
    Repeating someone else's writing in different words so it's not a direct quotation is called "paraphrasing." Paraphrasing is fine when you indicate the source and the new expression is actually your own. When the expression remains substantially similar to the source as a whole or in one of its parts, it's plagiarism. To count as "your own words," your writing must be significantly different from your source that a reasonable reader would consider it a new piece of writing. To avoid this form of plagiarism, compare what you have written with the original source and revise as needed until the expression is truly your own.

  • Present someone else's ideas as your own, even if you express them in your own words.
    It is plagiarism to present someone else's original arguments, lines of reasoning, or factual discoveries as your own, even if you put the material in your own words. To avoid this from of plagiarism, cite the source.

To learn how to correctly paraphrase and cite sources, continue to the Citing and Documenting module.