Skip to Main Content

Avoiding Plagiarism and Academic Dishonesty: Guide

What is plagiarism?

When you write, the content of your work may come from three sources:

  • Your own original thoughts and ideas
  • The work of others
  • Common knowledge

Whenever you use the work of others in your writing, it should be attributed. This gives proper credit where due to the originators of ideas and knowledge. It also allows readers to verify information that they may otherwise question.

Common knowledge does not need to be cited. There are varying definitions of common knowledge. According to Purdue's Online Writing Lab, "Generally, common knowledge is information that someone finds undocumented in at least five credible sources." If it is a fact or a saying that most people in a field are familiar with, without a defined origin, it is likely considered common knowledge.


Expectations regarding plagiarism

In your academic career, you will be asked to write many papers, reports, and assignments, and you will be required to do so using your own original words. In order to avoid charges of academic misconduct, you must avoid plagiarism and similar forms of misconduct.

Actions that may be considered plagiarism:

  • Copying others' writing or ideas, in part or in whole, using exact words or paraphrasing, without proper attribution
  • Buying papers or assignments from others to submit as your own work
  • Hiring a ghost writer to complete your work for you
  • Copying code snippets from other sources without attribution
  • Using an equation in your writing without attribution

Note: It is possible to plagiarize accidentally! This can happen when you paraphrase a little too closely, or when you accidentally use wording that is similar to something you've read in the past. Carefully providing citations as you are writing can help you avoid this.


Consequences of Plagiarizing

As an MSOE student, you can face serious consequences for plagiarism. You may be significantly docked in your grade for an assignment or class. You may face a variety of academic consequences for plagiarism, ranging all the way up to expulsion from the university, depending on the severity of the plagiarism.

MSOE professors and instructors may use Turnitin software to check for plagiarism. If you've copied some of your work from another source, it's likely to be flagged.

There are also consequences in the professional world for plagiarizing. It could jeopardize a job or your entire career if you are found to have copied unattributed work from others or otherwise taken credit for ideas or knowledge that aren't your own. Plagiarism is a very serious offense and it's not worth risking the consequences. Avoid consequences by taking care to do your own work and properly attribute the work of others.

Student Integrity Policy

MSOE's Student Integrity policy contains the following guidelines:

1. Each student must recognize that even a poorly developed piece of work that represents his or her best efforts is far more worthwhile than the most outstanding piece of work taken from someone else.
2. Students must observe the rules established by a faculty member for a particular course.
3. Assignments prepared outside of class must include appropriate documentation of all borrowed ideas and expressions. The absence of such documentation constitutes “plagiarism,” which is the knowing or negligent use of the ideas, expressions or work of another with intent to pass such materials off as one’s own. It is an act of plagiarism if a student purchases a paper or submits a paper, computer program, or drawing claiming it to be his/hers when he/she did not write it.
4. Each student should consistently prepare for examinations so as to reduce temptation toward dishonesty.
5. A student may not share examination answers with others for the purpose of cheating, nor should he or she, intentionally or through carelessness, give them an opportunity to obtain the same.
6. Academic dishonesty or cheating includes the act of obtaining or attempting to obtain credit for academic work through the use of any dishonest, deceptive or fraudulent means. Cheating at MSOE includes but is not limited to:
  • Copying, in part or in whole, from another’s test or homework assignments, worksheets, lab reports, essays, summaries, quizzes, etc.
  • Copying examinations and quizzes, in whole or in part, unless approved by the instructor.
  • Submitting work previously graded in another course unless this has been approved by the course instructor or by departmental policy.
  • Submitting work simultaneously presented in two courses, unless this has been approved by both course instructors or by the department policies of both departments.
  • Communicating electronically (unless approved by the instructor) during examinations with the intent to seek or provide answers.
  • Attempting to present as the student’s own work, materials or papers purchased or downloaded from the Internet.
  • Violating discipline specific health, safety or ethical requirements to gain any unfair advantage in lab(s) or clinical assignments
  • Any other act committed that defrauds or misrepresents, including aiding or abetting in any of the actions defined above.
  • Claiming credit for a group project or paper when the individual student made little or no contribution to the group’s product.
  • Accessing reference documents during an exam or quiz unless approved by the course instructor.
7. A student of integrity will not support, encourage or protect others who are involved in academic dishonesty in any way, and will furthermore attempt to dissuade another student from engaging in dishonest acts.

Plagiarism Resources


If you have suggestions for how to make this page better, please contact Elizabeth Jerow, Instruction and Outreach Librarian (