Although plagiarism won't put a person in jail, it sure will do a lot of damage to a reputation. One act of plagiarism can put a person's entire career into question or cause the loss of school credit and employment. The only good thing that comes from plagiarism is...actually literally nothing good ever comes from plagiarism.
Plagiarism? What is this thing of which you speak?
The Nevada Department of Education and the Clark County School District describe plagiarism this way, “Plagiarism is a common form of cheating or academic dishonesty in the school setting. It is representing another person’s works or ideas as your own without giving credit to the proper source and submitting it for any purpose.”
Here are some examples:
turning in someone else's work (including another student's) as your own
copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not
Breaking it down.
At the high school level, it is generally by using another person's work from books, magazines, online resources, or other resources as evidence that you reach the conclusions that make up your research project. You acknowledge to your reader that you are using someone else's work by citing the source. The citation should include three distinct elements: a signal phrase, an in-text or parenthetical citation, and a bibliographic citation on the works cited page. This must be done regardless if you summarize, paraphrase, or directly quote the source.
Look at the following sentence following the MLA style:
Lenberg asserts that the student’s researcher role is to not only present his or her conclusions “but to show how you uncovered them and through what channels” (677).
A signal phrase is a part of the sentence in which the information is shared and tells the reader that the information comes from a specific source. It should contain a verb that indicates how the author presented the information ( examples: note, claim, argue, demonstrate, etc. An example would be “Lenberg asserts…”
An in-text or parenthetical citation will most often come at the end of the sentence that shares the cited information and will look like (677), (677) being the page number where the information was found. If the author’s name hasn’t been previously mentioned include it in the in-text citation: (Lenberg, 2010) or (Lenberg 677).
Lastly, the bibliography citation on the works cited page will look like this:
Lenburg, Jeff. The Facts On File Guide to Research, Second Edition. Facts On File, 2010,
Infobase eBooks, ebooks.infobase.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?
wID=277898&ISBN=9781438132990, Accessed 4 Jan. 2023.
In the example sentence, the evidence has been put in quotes because the writer has used a direct quote; the information has been taken word-for-word from the original source. Whenever you directly quote a source, the borrowed information must be in quotes. If the quotes are missing, even if there is an in-text citation and a corresponding citation on the Works Cited page, the writer has plagiarized the original source. Summaries, paraphrases, and indirect quotes do not require quotation marks but still must have the in-text citation and the corresponding citation on the Works Cited page.
It cannot be stressed enough. Anytime someone else's words in direct quotes or someone else's ideas whether in a paraphrase, summary, or indirect quote are used in academic writing, the sources must be cited; otherwise, the writer has committed plagiarism even if it was accidental.
What about Common Knowledge?
Common knowledge does not need to be cited; however, what exactly is common knowledge needs to be clear. If a particular piece of information isn't known before the research process, one could reason that the information isn't common knowledge.
If the information is known to people who are outside of that area of expertise, or if the same information shows up in several resources without citations or attributes, then it is most likely common knowledge and won't require citing. However, just because you know something, that doesn't make the information common knowledge. You alone are not a reliable source, so find a reliable source that supports your knowledge and cite that.
If there is ever a doubt, it is better to cite than be sorry.