(The following is respectfully borrowed from http://www.plagiarism.org/plagiarism-101/what-is-plagiarism/)
According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, to "plagiarize" means
to use (another's production) without crediting the source
to commit literary theft
to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source
In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else's work and lying about it afterward.
But can words and ideas really be stolen?
According to U.S. law, the answer is yes. The expression of original ideas is considered intellectual property and is protected by copyright laws, just like original inventions. Almost all forms of expression fall under copyright protection as long as they are recorded in some way (such as a book or a computer file).
Most cases of plagiarism can be avoided, however, by citing sources. Simply acknowledging that certain material has been borrowed and providing your audience with the information necessary to find that source is usually enough to prevent plagiarism
1. Cite your sources
You need to be able to tell your professor where you're getting your information from. This means that you need to include both in-text citations and citations at the end of your paper. The way that you cite your resources depends on what citation style your are told to use. If you aren't sure, ask your professor which citation style you are using because failure to use the right style could be considered plagiarism!
2. Understand when to cite
90% of the time when you are writing assignments/papers for college, you will be using outside resources (journal articles, web sites, books, textbooks, etc.) within your writing.
It is important to understand that anytime you use someone else's words or ideas, you must cite where it came from.
If you want to take what someone else has said word-for-word, you need to put it between quotation marks and include an in-text citation after the sentence. That in-text citation should then correspond to a citation at the end of your paper in either your Works Cited or References list.
If you are paraphrasing what someone else has written by putting their thoughts and ideas into your own words, you also need to include an in-text citation after the sentence, which should correspond to a citation at the end of your paper in either your Works Cited or References list.
3. Learn to paraphrase correctly
Most of the time, what professors see is that students don't know how to paraphrase information from other sources correctly. If you are not using a direct quote, but still using someone else's ideas and putting it into your own words, that is paraphrasing. Just because you are using your own words does not mean that you don't have to cite it. You still need your in-text citation that corresponds to a citation at the end of your paper in either your Works Cited or References list.
Click here for more information on how to paraphrase correctly.
WCCC's Policy on Academic Conduct
The following is part of the Student Rights, Responsibilities and Academic Conduct policy at WCCC:
Students have an obligation to conduct their academic activities honestly and conscientiously. They should give appropriate recognition by name for their contributions to published material. Each course syllabus will contain the institutional policy on plagiarism.
In addition, they shall not:
Violation of these rules can lead to a failure for a course and/or expulsion from the College.