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Accidental Plagiarism

Danielle is writing an essay. She started her research weeks ago and has many pages of thorough notes. Danielle made sure that her Works Cited page was perfect and that she did not leave out a single source. However, Danielle, to her great surprise, has her essay returned with a note from her professor stating that she violated the Student Code of Conduct by plagiarizing. She realized her mistake; Danielle copied one of her notes word-for-word. This note had been copied from a book. Danielle had made an honest mistake and she understands that she took someone else's work. Honest accidents, even if you are unaware, still count as plagiarism.

Accidental plagiarism in real life: 

Harvard Novelist Says Copying Was Unintentional. The publisher later rejected the author's apology

Helpful resources:

Accidental Plagiarism: It Could Happen to You

Plagiarism in a Speech

Speeches are like written assignments: if you take ideas from another scholar, or quote directly from another work, you must quote the source. When presenting to an audience, the audience has the right to assume the content of your speech is new and original work. If you do not properly reference source material, you are deceiving your audience and stealing another person's hard work. The consequences for plagiarizing a speech are the same as those for other types of plagiarism.

Plagiarizing a speech in real life:

Vice President Joe Biden dropped his Democratic presidential nomination bid, in 1987, after it was revealed he plagiarized from a speech by a British politician. Front runner before the revelations, Biden claimed it was an honest mistake. 

Helpful resources:

Citing Sources in a Speech

Using Citations and Avoiding Plagiarism in Oral Presentations


Your favorite artist just released a new album. You are excited for their new material and eagerly buy the new album. When you sit down and listen, you discover that half the songs were from their previous albums. You expected new material, but the artist just renamed and re-released older songs. You are rightfully upset. Your audience, whether that is your professor or your fellow students, has even reason to believe that what they are reading is new and original. Just like when you listen to an artist's new album, you correctly assume that the album contains entirely new material. It is fine to repurpose your previous work. If you choose to do this, but talk to your instructor before you do about what the appropriate amount is.

Self-plagiarism in real life:

Jonah Lehrer used the material from his previously published articles and sold them in his book. Lehrer resigned from his position at the The New Yorker because of his self-plagiarism and other ethical violations. 

Helpful resources:

Avoiding plagiarism, self-plagiarism, and other questionable writing practices: A guide to ethical writing