1. The action or practice of taking someone else's work, idea, etc., and passing it off as one's own; literary theft.
Oxford English Dictionary, Plagiarism. Accessed June 10, 2010. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/144939?redirectedFrom=Plagiarism#eid
"10. Plagiarizing, that is, the offering as one's own work the words, ideas, or arguments of another person without appropriate attribution by quotation, reference or footnote. Plagiarism occurs either when the words of another (in print, electronic, or any other medium) are reproduced without acknowledgement or when the ideas or arguments of another are paraphrased in such a way as to lead the reader to believe that they originated with the writer. It is the responsibility of all University students to understand the methods of proper attribution and to apply those principles in all materials submitted." Catalog of Studies, 2010-11 Academic Regulations, Academic Honesty, Introduction, Definitions
What this means in real life is that you can't use your friend's paper or presentation, either as a whole work or as a source; you shouldn't even use your own papers from another class, without explicit permission from both professors. You'll need to use articles, books, book chapters, and make sure you cite the material that you use, whether you quote directly, paraphrase, or integrate materials. Be careful to keep track, especially if you are copying and pasting text or images (yes, images should be cited too-- they are the intellectual property of the creator). We have tools, including Endnote Basic, to help you keep track of your sources. Some of our librarians also like Zotero, which is a free tool.
Plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty can cost students their scholarships, their ability to attend the University, potential jobs or internships, and often some of their relationships--
The New York Times has a page that links to many articles about plagiarism.
Maintaining academic or research integrity is a problem in many fields. The subject is complex, and made more difficult by the ways the media can make it seem as though "everyone is doing it." First of all, that isn't true, and second, the people who take shortcuts through using other peoples' materials as their own shortchange their own learning.
This guide page uses some style elements and content borrowed, with permission, from a similar page by Patricia Kirkwood.