Plagiarism means claiming as your own the ideas, words, data, computer programs, creative compositions, artwork, etc., done by someone else. Examples include improper citation of referenced works, the use of commercially available scholarly papers, failure to cite sources, or copying another person’s ideas. It is a form of cheating.
You do not have to cite something if it's common knowledge. Common knowledge is something most readers would already know or something that could be easily found in general reference sources, like encyclopedias.
The earth is round = common knowledge
The earth has about 197 million square miles of total surface area = NOT common knowledge
These questions offer a great way to discuss issues of plagiarism. You can review them as a class, or students can discuss them in groups.
You’re excited when your English teacher encourages students to choose topics related to their majors. You took an introductory class in your major last semester and are able to incorporate what you learned right into one of your papers. You don’t cite the information, since you’ve long since internalized it and don’t have a textbook or lecture notes to reference anyway.
You had to write a book report on Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle for an English class. After completing the draft of your report, you discuss your ideas with a relative who teaches literature at a different university. The relative gives you feedback that alters your view of thematic events in the novel. You rewrite your paper and submit the final version to your professor, but you do not state where your interpretation of the book’s thematic events originated. After reading your paper, your professor suspects you have plagiarized and will not accept your paper. Did you commit academic dishonesty? If so, what can you do differently in the future?
You are taking a class that involves writing an essay on Kant. Your professor has recommended a particular book chapter as a secondary source on Kant's ideas about war and peace. You read this chapter and find a quote that looks like it speaks to Kant's idea of perpetual peace, but you don't really understand what the quotation means. You think of approaching your professor to ask for help but decide that she will think less of you for not grasping the text. Instead you find a website that summarizes the chapter, and you use that to explain your quote. You don't cite this website because you are explaining how the website explains the chapter. Is this plagiarism?