The Writing Center treats source usage, citation, and concerns about plagiarism as teachable moments. That is: We do not police or enforce plagiarism; instead, we support student learning by teaching appropriate and responsible methods for quotation integration, paraphrase, synthesis, signal phrasing, and citations.

Another way we support student learning is by facilitating the submission of student drafts to TurnItIn, which provides "similarity checking" against writing both published and unpublished. If you are interested in a TurnItIn similarity check through the Writing Center, please review the TurnItIn section below.

Plagiarism happens when you use specific words, phrases, ideas, or structures from other authors’ documents without citing the source and giving credit to the original author. This means that emulating another author’s style, tone, organization or actual words requires that you credit the author.

Submitting another person’s work as your own is another, more straightforward, version of plagiarism. This means that copying work, hiring it out, having someone else edit your work, or using papers downloaded from the Internet are all forms of plagiarism.

So, you must be careful not to copy:

  • Words
  • Phrases
  • Concepts or ideas
  • Sentence, paragraph, argument, or sectioning structures
  • Any work that was completed by another person

Plagiarism is a Serious Offense...

...that can result in not just failing a paper or a course, but expulsion from the University. It can also seem like an ethical “grey area,” but in reality, acceptable vs. unacceptable practice is quite clear.

(Please see UCD's Academic Honor Code and Discipline Policies page)

Exception: Shared Disciplinary Jargon

To be clear, every discipline has standard terminology—for instance, “mitochondrial DNA,” “Greek Revival style,” or “Second-Language Learners.” Using this shared disciplinary jargon is unavoidable and typically is not cause for citation use or considered plagiarism. That said, you cannot ethically use the same phrasing or sentence structure from a source text, even in cited paraphrase.

  1. Crediting an original author in your text
  2. Using proper quotation and citation
    • Quoting means using the actual words of the original author. Even if you don't use every single word form a sentence/passage or use a small exceprt within your own sentence structure, you must still put all exact words/phrasing in quotation marks and include a citation. 
  3. Paraphrasing with citation
    • Paraphrasing means restating the same information in a new way. It is okay to use a few of the same words, but it is very important that most of the words and the sentence structures be your own. Also, even if you paraphrase, you must cite the original author. 

Upon request, the Writing Center will run similarity checks for student drafts and send a similarity report with percentage. 

  1. Unless requested at the beginning of sessions, consultants may not have time to run, print/send, and explain a TurnItIn similarity report. 
  2. Instead, please email your file and request to at least two business days before you need the results. 
  3. Please make an appointment to work with a consultant on understanding your results and making a plan for revision (encouraged but not required). 
  4. We will not process more than two (2) reports for a single assignment. 

Upon receipt of a TurnItIn similarity report, students should know: 

  • TurnItIn marks as similar everything from other sources, both published and unpublished; this includes correctly quoted material, citations/references, etc. 
  • Some items/passages marked as similar -- e.g., directly quoted and cited source information -- are just fine and should be ignored
  • Some items/passages marked as similar -- e.g., inappropriate or irresponsible paraphrase, material included verbatim without quotation marks or citations, etc.-- are NOT fine and will need to be revised