Plagiarism and American Academia

Plagiarism and American Academia

Academic writing is a vital and constant part of college life at U.S. universities. This is challenging for all students, but writing in a new language, studying in a different educational system and living in another culture can bring unique challenges to an international student.

During your tenure as a student, you will be required to write numerous essays, reports, and research. To save time and get high grades, you may be tempted to copy academic works from others or, what even worse, seek out custom writing services for help.

To be clear, this is something you should never do when studying in the USA. This is what professors call plagiarism in academia. And it may lead to your expulsion and a ruined academic reputation. American university policies are very strict, and their violation is strictly punishable, too.

What is plagiarism in academia?

Plagiarism is the process of stealing someone's work and representing it as your own. It's illegal, and it leads to penalties according to the policies of most American universities.

International students should understand that plagiarism is not just copying and pasting. The most common types of plagiarism to avoid are:

  • Direct – when you rewrite someone's works word-for-word, without attribution.
  • Mosaic – when you borrow some phrases from someone's work, without quotation marks or attribution.
  • Paraphrase – when you take someone's work, change the word order, and represent it as your own.
  • Self – when you submit your previous work again or use parts of your previous writings to create a new one.
  • Accidental – when you unintentionally copy or paraphrase someone's work without proper citation.

What are the consequences of plagiarism in academia?

When entering a U.S. university, you need to understand that professors will not tolerate dishonest efforts of their students. American educational institutions support and promote academic honesty, which means that all forms of plagiarism and cheating are highly prohibited and lead to penalties.

When applying to colleges and universities in the USA, make sure to read their policies regarding plagiarism and other controversial issues. If you don't understand them, ask your professor to explain the policies in detail and assist you before a problem arises.

What can happen to you if you plagiarize academic writings?

Failing grades, suspension or expulsion are the most obvious consequences, but there are other consequences:

  • You will tarnish your reputation.
  • You will lose the trust of your teachers and peers.
  • You will become a thief.
  • You will harm the authors from whom you steal.
  • You will weaken the educational community.
  • You will lose the ability to think critically.

How to avoid plagiarism issues in your academic writings

Never copy other people’s works, never write essays for other students, and never forget to cite your sources.

To do that, you must understand the difference between plagiarism and properly paraphrasing. It's okay to use synonyms or explain someone's ideas with your own words. When paraphrasing, you keep the original meaning but share personal thoughts about it. Use your writing voice and style. Don't just change the words order without proper citations.

Also, follow the formatting guidelines from your professor. APA, MLA, Chicago – all they have strict rules about quoting and citing. You should know how to format citations in essays and other types of papers.

Don't forget to include a reference page at the end of your academic paper. A reference page is a list of published works you used to support the arguments in your essay. You will need to learn how to format it correctly and how to refer to it from the body of your paper.

Before you submit an academic work to your professor, make sure to proofread and edit it. Check quotes and references one more time, double check for spelling and grammar mistakes, and read your essay aloud. This trick will help you to see if your writing flows and if there are any flaws you could change to improve it.

Don't think you can fool your professors! Believe it or not, they will always know if you plagiarized your work: reputable plagiarism checkers help them scan your writings and prevent dishonesty in academia. More than that, professors know your essay writing skills, so they can easily guess who was the author of your paper – you or a friend of yours.

Plagiarism checkers are great tools for students, too. They help to scan writings and find duplications before you submit your work to professors. Also, the report from a checker can prove your authorship: if a teacher says you plagiarize the essay, show the report to protect yourself from accusations.   

Lesley Vos, a private educator and online tutor from Chicago. Teaching the French language to students, she also blogs for and writes articles for publications on college life, career, and self-development. Feel free to say hi on Twitter or drop a line in Facebook.   

Show More

Download Study in the USA® Magazines