What Is Plagiarism?

I recently was reading an article about what plagiarism was considered to be.  Being a college student who has to write a lot of papers this is an important topic to me, since I don’t want to steal other people’s work and I also want to have my own original ideas, but I didn’t like the definition the article gave.

The author pretty much said that using any idea from a paper or piece of writing even if you put it into your own words is plagiarism.  This was hard for me to make sense of, I mean if you are sitting in class listening to a lecture you pick up things that your teacher says and turn them into you own idea if you like it.  So what are the difference in taking something you heard, or something you read and morphing it into your own idea?  I don’t think there is much difference, and I don’t think that plagiarism is such a fine line as we treat it.  I really do believe that anything you read, any movie you watch, or music you listen to has some inspiration or foundation that they took from another author.  I have been reading the Pre-Socratic philosophers a lot lately (all the philosophers before Socrates) and have come to realize there really hasn’t been a completely new idea since around 500 BC!  Reading that stuff I see the foundation for every major scientific theory, the foundations of every religion I have learned about, and most of the philosophical ideas of life and nature.  So has everyone that has ever written something plagiarized their work because they took others ideas and turned them into their own?  I would hardly think so, I feel like people have gotten this idea that because they wrote something down then no one can use any of their ideas.  Socrates may have been on to something by not writing things down because he felt it cheapened the meaning of his ideas.

So without dragging this on for pages I will give my plain definition of plagiarism.  If you use more than a paragraph of someone’s works without citing it and mentioning whom the author is, than that is plagiarism.  Reading a few lines then using your own words to turn it into your own definition is not plagiarism.  So students be not afraid to get inspiration from others works and use their ideas, there is nothing wrong with that, because if you were to look into the authors work you would undoubtedly find another source from which they took their work from.

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2 Responses to What Is Plagiarism?

  1. Jonathan says:

    You raise some good points about the authenticity of the concept of plagiarism. The main thing here is intent. The people who had the same ideas before Socrates did not necessarily hear about their peers or their ideas. They formed the ideas themselves, it just so happened that someone else had the same idea.
    Good post though.

    • drewdayton says:

      Thank you Jonathan, and you are right on the money. I think a lot of it dos have to do with intent, if you are doing it to try and cheat then its going to be plagiarism. I know a lot of students worry about it being that most teachers really stress the point, and I just hope students can relax and not have to worry about that while writing a paper because students don’t need any extra things to worry about.

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