What To Do If You Are Accused Of Plagiarism

Almost every student has dealt with concerns over how to protect themselves against plagiarism. Every one of us has at one point or another worried about citing a source properly or covering our tracks when it comes to researching a complicated subject. But do all of us know how to really keep ourselves from getting into plagiarism trouble aside from ‘not doing it’ in the first place?

The first thing to do to protect yourself against errant accusations is to keep a record of everything you do in a class. I know this sounds intense, but it will really pay off if you are charged with plagiarism and need to show the honor council all of your work. Keep in your files hard copies of your notes, your rough drafts, and research logs of all your sources. Know exactly where you got your information from and be able to access it. If you pulled it from the internet, make sure you have a printout of it as well. You’ll also want to save all of your email correspondence with fellow students and the professor, especially if he or she asks you over email about plagiarism. If you’ve met with the professor, make sure you write down notes immediately after the meeting regarding what you talked about. Remember, the more paper trail you have, the more credible you’ll look to an honor council.

Secondly, don’t set yourself up for a failure in the first place. This means that you should never procrastinate on a project, as waiting until the last minute can create a situation that makes you susceptible to the temptation. How many times have you heard of a student plagiarizing a project because he or she was so tired of staying up all night? More than necessary, I’m sure. If your professor knows you waited until last minute, then he or she has a great reason to suspect you of plagiarism.

Finally, if you did actually plagiarize a project, you need to own up to it as quickly as possible. Hopefully you didn’t do it, but if you did, know your rights and the different kinds of plagiarism out there. For example, accidentally forgetting to cite a source is a much different kind of violation than outright copying word for word an eight page text from another source. If you’ve done that already, no amount of protection can save you.

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