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Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism

Essays and other types of writing assignments are part of the university experience. As undergraduates, we use the knowledge gained during coursework to demonstrate our retention and ability to apply it. We rely on information outside our own lived experiences to do so, and those sources need to be credited using in-text citations and a corresponding reference list. Whether it’s through APA, MLA, or any other style guide, proper citations uphold the intellectual integrity of academic institutions and students.

Failure to cite your sources is called plagiarism, defined by AU in the Student Academic Misconduct Policy as submitting or presenting coursework as if that coursework is the student’s own when, in fact, it is not”[i] Plagiarism goes by many names – copying, cheating, theft, etc. – and can happen different ways. Most common are the improper use of in-text citations or failing to use citations at all[ii]. Other examples are submitting someone else’s assignment as your own or buying an essay from one of the many duplicitous assignments-for-purchase websites out there[iii].

Plagiarism breaches come with serious consequences for the accused. AU students found to have plagiarized are subject to any number of penalties outlined in the policy[iv], including the rejection of coursework or admission, a reduced or failing grade, a suspension or expulsion from AU, or the revocation of an awarded credential. Of course, there is an appeals process for those who feel the charge of plagiarism is without merit. Penalized students may also file an appeal if they feel the penalty received was too extreme. Regardless, the penalties are harsh because the act of plagiarism is severe.

Plagiarism can also happen out of ignorance since students aren’t always certain how to properly cite (for we are all still in the process of learning!). The good news is that there are lots of tutorials and resources available on how to properly cite and avoid plagiarism.

AU’s Write Site has a page dedicated to plagiarism, including a list of how to avoid it. This page also links to several additional resources you can visit for more information. My go-to resource for all things citation is the Owl Purdue website, offering a guide to every writing style and how to avoid plagiarism[v]. Another good resource is Grammarly.com, where you can have your writing evaluated in many ways, including spellcheck, grammar, and, yep, plagiarism! Here are their tips for avoiding plagiarism[vi].

Although the potential consequences of improper citations are scary, there is a lot of support out there
to learn how you can avoid plagiarism altogether. When in doubt, reach out! Get feedback from someone with experience, be it your tutor or a fellow student (try asking clarifying questions in the AUSU Mobile App!). We all have a responsibility to uphold the intellectual integrity of our work, the work of others, and the academic experience overall.

Happy citing!

Leah Campbell
VP Finance and Administration


[i] Athabasca University (2017) Student Academic Misconduct Policy

[ii] Kramer, L. (2022). 7 Common Types of Plagiarism, with Examples, in Writing Tips. Grammarly. https://www.grammarly.com/blog/types-of-plagiarism/

[iii] Athabasca University. (2017). Student Academic Misconduct Policy. Athabasca University Policy. https://www.athabascau.ca/university-secretariat/_documents/policy/student-academic-misconduct-poloicy.html

[iv] Athabasca University (2017) Student Academic Misconduct Policy

[v] Purdue University. (2021). Avoiding Plagiarism. Owl Purdue. https://www.owl.purdue.edu/owl/teacher_and_tutor_resources/preventing_plagiarism/avoiding_plagiarism/index.html

[vi] Calonia, J. (2022). How to Avoid Plagiarism, in Writing Tips. Grammarly. https://www.grammarly.com/blog/5-most-effective-methods-for-avoiding-plagiarism/

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