Plagiarism: what it is and how to avoid it

Carol Frost, Associate Vice President for Research and Economic Development
March 11, 2009

1. What is plagiarism?

"The appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit"  42CFR Section 93.103

Plagiarism occurs when we do not attribute our intellectual debts to others. It is not restricted to writing but can occur in music, computer code, art, and scientific work.

To avoid plagiarism, proper credit must be given whenever we use:

  • Another person's idea, opinion or theory

  • Any facts, statistics, graphs, drawings, or other information that is not common knowledge

  • Quotations of another person's actual spoken or written words

  • Paraphrase of another person's spoken or written words

When in doubt, we should err on the side of over-documentation.

2. Strategies for avoiding plagiarism

A. Adopt a positive attitude about citation. Using citations shows that we know the literature and recognize the contributions of others upon which we are building new knowledge.

Make sure our work has a thesis or main idea that is our own and organize the cited source material from others around that point.

B. Put in quotations everything that comes directly from another text, and cite the source.

C. Paraphrase, but be sure we are not just rearranging or replacing a few words, and cite the source.

D. Recognize that common knowledge is factual information. We do not need to cite sources for facts that can be found in numerous places and are known by many people, but we must reference or ideas that interpret facts. We also should reference debatable facts.

For example, we do not need a citation for the sentence:

Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968.

We do need a citation for the sentence:

During the Stalin years, casualties due to famine have been estimated at more than 6 million people.

For examples of how to incorporate source material into your writing, you may consult the examples available from the University of Indiana's Writing Tutorial Services website (

3. UW policies related to plagiarism and academic dishonesty in the classroom

Following are UW Regulation addresses pertaining to Academic Dishonesty: (

Code of Student Conduct -- UW Regulation 8-30

UW Regulation 6-802, adopted 10/17/08 Board of Trustees meeting -- Procedures and Authorized University Actions in Cases of Academic Dishonesty

UW Regulation 8-229, Revision 2; adopted 7/17/08 Board of Trustees meeting-- Authority of University Officers Regarding Administration of University Requirements

Information Circular  "Use of "X" grade in cases of suspected academic dishonesty"

For appeals "Principles of Student Life: Rights and Responsibilities"

4. UW's policy on research misconduct, including plagiarism

UW is required to have a policy for responding to allegations of research misconduct that conforms to federal regulation. This policy includes the possibility of administrative actions should a person be found guilty of research misconduct, which includes fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism.

These actions include:
  • Withdrawal or correction of all pending or published abstracts and papers emanating from the research where research misconduct was found;
  • Removal of the responsible person from the particular project, letter of reprimand, special monitoring of future work, probation, suspension, salary reduction, or initiation of steps leading to possible rank reduction or termination of employment;
  • Restitution of funds as appropriate.
Federal agencies may enforce sanctions in addition to ones applied by the university. Recent examples of sanctions by NSF for plagiarism in proposals and publications include:
  • Debarment from receiving federal grants for a period of years,
  • Cannot serve as reviewer
  • Must have professor and responsible official of the employer certify that proposals and reports do not contain plagiarized material
  • Must complete ethics training
Contact Us

Research & Economic Development Division

Dept. 3355, 1000 E. University Avenue

Old Main Room 308

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-5353

Fax: (307) 766-2608

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