What is Plagiarism and How Do You Avoid It?

All students of City Vision University must follow our Standards of Academic Integrity, which include avoiding all forms of plagiarism. Plagiarism has serious consequences, up to and including dismissal from the course after the second offense.

Plagiarism includes more than simply copying text from a website, book, encyclopedia or other source and not referencing the place from which you copied it. Plagiarism is not just intentional deception or fraud – there are other ways that you can use sources improperly when writing for college.

Below is a list of some of the most common forms of plagiarism:

  • turning in someone else’s work as your own

  • copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit

  • failing to put a quotation in quotation marks

  • giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation

  • changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit

  • copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not

Take note particularly of the last type of plagiarism: you can be considered to have committed plagiarism if you take most of the ideas for your writing from a single source, even if you give credit to the source. Note: This includes using AI tools like ChatGPT to make up more than 10% of the content of your paper, even if you cite them properly, as stated in our Standards of Academic Integrity.

The majority of the words in your assignments, including forum posts, must be your own for you to receive credit for the assignment. If you take most of the words for a forum post from a single web page or other source, that will be considered plagiarism, even if you provide a link to the website or another reference.

Colleges like City Vision University care about plagiarism for several reasons:

  1. Copying work from other people without giving credit is not tolerated in the business environment any more than it is in college. The specifics of how to give credit may be different but the principle is the same. In this way, we hope to prepare you for your future career.

  2. Copying from other sources and pages that you find on Google doesn’t demonstrate that you’ve learned the material in your courses. Having to explain an idea or concept in your own words shows that you actually understand it, and will help you remember it after the course is over.

  3. Giving credit to others for their work when you use it in your college writing is the standard practice that makes academic work possible. You are building on others’ research, thoughts and ideas in what you say and others in turn may build on what you say. This can only continue if people know where the ideas originally come from.

  4. Finally, the more obvious forms of plagiarism (such as copying others’ writing and presenting it as your own) are simply a question of honesty: we are a Christian institution, and we value students’ being honest about what is their own work.

Since plagiarism is such a significant issue, how do you avoid plagiarism? Fortunately, most forms of plagiarism can be avoided by letting people know where you are getting your words and ideas from – this done through citations.

City Vision uses the APA format for citations in Addiction Counseling & Ministry courses. Nonprofit Management & Business courses use citations similar to what might be used for a business plan or grant application.  For more on how to do each kind of citations, see our Writing Requirements page.

Note that it is not sufficient to put in citations at the end of your paper, but not use any in-text citations. You have to put in the in-text citations so that people reading your paper know which specific source a quotation comes from.

In Discussion posts, you can use web links instead of citations to reference your sources. Just put the URL (the part in the browser bar that usually starts with “http” or “www”) in parentheses.

See here for a list of tools that can make it easier for you to create citations, like CitationMachine and Zotero.

The following 2 articles will help you know when to cite a source:

  • Evidence – look specifically at the “How Can I Incorporate Evidence in My Paper?” section

  • Plagiarism

The entire second article is very helpful, but the most important part of it is the following:

In order to decide if the [information] you want to use in your paper constitutes “common knowledge” [and doesn’t need to be cited] you may find it helpful to ask yourself the following questions:

Did I know this information before I took this course?

Did this information/idea come from my own brain?

If you answer “no” to either or both of these questions, then the information is not “common knowledge” to you. In these cases, you need to cite your source(s) and indicate where you first learned this bit of what may be “common knowledge” in the field.

Note that the exact words of an author always need to be cited. However, in many circumstances, you should not use an author’s exact words, but instead should take their ideas and rewrite them into your own words.

This is called a paraphrase if it is roughly the same length as the original, and a summary if you shorten it by just covering the key ideas from what they said. Quotations should mainly be used when you are discussing the words themselves. For more information on this, see When to Quote, Paraphrase or Summarize a Source.