Comm 204 Public Speaking: Plagiarism

Principles and practices of effective oral communication; analysis of the speaking-listening process; selection and organization of speech materials; use of new presentation technologies.

A Few Tips - When Is it Plagiarism?

Here are some useful definitions from the Libraries' "Academic Integrity Tutorial" written by Librarian Avril Cunningham with input from faculty, students and librarians.

Plagiarism "includes, using someone else’s work without appropriate acknowledgement (such as paraphrasing another’s ideas or text from a book, journal, or electronic resource without providing the appropriate acknowledgment)."

Cheating "is the use of unauthorized assistance within a class or while completing course work – which provides an advantage which has not been provided to every student.... If you attempt to benefit from the work of another or use unauthorized assistance to compete academic work – this does not further your learning and is considered cheating."

Some things are obviously plagiarism and/or cheating, and can get you sent to Student Judicial Affairs for a serious interview, and possibly expelled, things like:

  • You copy a whole paragraph or more from a book or article right into your paper as if these were your own words and ideas
  • You copy part or all of a "sample research paper" on your topic from a web site for "Easy College Papers"
  • You do not use quotation marks [ "  "] around direct quotes and/or forget to make a citation note and/or forget to add this work you cited to your bibliographyNote that "quote" and "cite" are often synonyms.
  • You collaborate with another student in your class to write your paper, even though the professor said the paper should be your own work

But you need to also be careful with "grey areas" like these:

  • You copy most of a paragraph from an article, moving a few words or sentences around, but do express your own ideas and do not cite
  • You "paraphrase" -- restate in your own words -- another author's concepts without giving credit; you may paraphrase, but you must be accurate -- do not change the author's meaning, and you must not use their words; you should still cite a paraphrase
  • Many scholars use a "rule of five" to determine if something is "common knowledge" -- if you can find 5 or more sources that state something as fact, it may be common knowledge, something like Michael Jackson was a famous pop singer.  But to be on the safe side, you can always cite a source!

Don't take the easy way out, think through your ideas, and put them in your own words (or equations), referencing others' works only to reinforce your own points.  When in doubt about anything regarding a research paper, ask your professor first.  You may also Ask a Librarian for additional assistance.


Check the plagiarism quiz to make sure you are not inadvertently plagiarising.


As a Trojan, you are expected to adhere all University Policies. The University has a plethora of information to assist you in maintaining Trojan values.

Student Judicial Affairs & Community Standards

Here are several resources to help you. The following provide examples of plagiarism to help you avoid doing it by accident:

Academic Integrity Overview

Trojan Integrity: A Guide to Understanding and Avoiding Academic Dishonesty

Trojan Integrity: A Guide to Avoiding Plagiarism

The USC Libraries LibGuide on Academic Integrity