Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

APA Style and Plagiarism: What is Plagiarism?

Find detailed information about the basics of writing an APA style paper including in-text citations, reference lists, formatting your paper and tips for conducting research.

Research Writing


The goal of research writing is to:

-- Show that you've done your research, but write something original and in your own words.

-- Give credit where credit is due, but make your own contribution.

This can be tricky, and sometimes plagiarism is unintenional.

Harvard Guide to Using Resources

What is Plagiarism?

PLAGIARISM (noun) - the unacknowledged use of someone else's words or ideas

Plagiarism is:

  • Borrowing or stealing someone else's paper.
  • Using a source too closely when paraphrasing.
  • Building on another person's ideas without the proper citation. 
  • Copying from another source without citing.


Artwork by Nina Paley; (

What's the Big Deal?

Why is plagiarism such a big deal?

Plagiariasm is considered a serious academic crime. Not only is plagiarism unethical, but it could be illegal. Plagiarism cases are usually interpreted by the courts as copyright infringement.

Reputations and careers have been ruined due to allegations of plagiarism. Notable people who have been accused of plagiarism include:

Under Federal law, there are both civil and criminal penalties for copyright infringement. Civil law allows the copyright owner to collect actual damages or “statutory” damages affixed at not less than $750 and not more than $30,000 per work infringed. Criminal penalties are up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

Under City College Conduct Policy it can lead to your dismissal from school.