Plagiarism can refer to both citation mistakes and to deliberate cheating and lying about the authorship of a source. It is important to remember that research, whether for term papers, speeches, presentations, or projects, usually depends on information taken from the work of others. When you mention the writings and ideas of others in your papers or presentations it is necessary to give credit to the original author. This is done by properly citing the creators within your paper. It is important to cite your research sources even when you paraphrase information and are not quoting it directly. Whenever you fail to give proper credit for the information or ideas contained in your paper it is plagiarism.
Plagiarism is academic dishonesty, and the penalties can be severe. Most university professors have methods for discovering plagiarized material, like Unicheck, and will deal severely with students who engage in this type of intellectual dishonesty. Students that have been found plagiarizing material in their papers often claim that it was done without their knowledge or "by accident." Ignorance is not a reasonable defense, so it pays to learn exactly what constitutes plagiarism and how to appropriately acknowledge and document the information you use.
Students often have misconceptions about plagiarism. Some students assume that plagiarism involves only written text, but electronic sources, images, recorded or spoken material (lectures, interviews), as well as the ideas of others, all need to be credited. Cyber-plagiarism, cutting and pasting information from the Web, is so easy to do that many students assume, incorrectly, that the information can be used without citing the author and source.
The standards become higher as you progress in your education. As a college student, you are expected to have your own ideas, to read information and explain it in your own words, and to use information you collect for research in an ethical manner.