Plagiarism: Definitions, Examples and Penalties

The University of Kentucky

Department of Chemistry


[University Definition]   [Procedures and Penalties]   [Examples]

University Definition

The University defines plagiarism and other academic offenses very clearly in Sections 6.3.0 to 6.3.2 of the Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook. All students should have received this publication when they entered the University. If you would like to obtain a printed copy, please consult the Chemistry main office staff.

As indicated in the excerpt below, plagiarism is more than simply copying someone else's lab report. Possible penalties for academic offenses such as plagiarism or cheating on exams range from an "E" for the course (the minimum penalty!) to expulsion from the University.

The salient points of the University code are reproduced here. This listing is by no means complete. For the complete text of these sections see the Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook. We have added emphasis to the sections to which students should pay particular attention.


All academic work, written or otherwise, submitted by students to their instructors or other academic supervisors, is expected to be the result of their own thought, research, or self-expression. In cases where students feel unsure about a question of plagiarism involving their work, they are obliged to consult their instructors on the matter before submission.

When students submit work purporting to be their own, but which in any way borrows ideas, organization, wording or anything else from another source without appropriate acknowledgment of the fact, the students are guilty of plagiarism.

Plagiarism includes reproducing someone else's work, whether it be a published article, chapter of a book, a paper from a friend or some file, or whatever. Plagiarism also includes the practice of employing or allowing another person to alter or revise the work which a student submits as his/her own, whoever that other person may be. Students may discuss assignments among themselves or with an instructor or tutor, but when the actual work is done, it must be done by the student, and the student alone.

When a student's assignment involves research in outside sources or information, the student must carefully acknowledge exactly what, where and how he/she has employed them. If the words of someone else are used, the student must put quotation marks around the passage in question and add an appropriate indication of its origin. Making simple changes while leaving the organization, content and phraseology intact is plagiaristic. However, nothing in these Rules shall apply to those ideas which are so generally and freely circulated as to be a part of the public domain.


Cheating is defined by its general usage. It includes, but is not limited to, the wrongfully giving, taking, or presenting any information or material by a student with the intent of aiding himself/herself or another on any academic work which is considered in any way in the determination of the final grade. Any question of definition shall be referred to the University Appeals Board.

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Procedures and Penalties

The University clearly defines the procedures that are to be followed when an instructor encounters a case of possible plagiarism. Please note that instructors and Department chairs are obligated to follow through on such suspicions.

The MINIMUM University penalty for plagiarism is an E in the course.

The following abridged excerpt from the Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook is provided for your benefit. Please consult this handbook for additional details.



An instructor who suspects that a student has committed an academic offense shall consult with the department chair, or the designee of the chair, as soon as practical after the instructor develops the suspicion. If the instructor is also the department chair, he or she shall consult with the Dean or the college's designee. Prior to consultation, however, the instructor may take action to prove or detect an academic offense or preserve evidence of same. In taking such action the instructor should minimize disruption and embarrassment to the student(s).

The instructor and department chair shall review the evidence of an academic offense, ask the dean of their college to inquire of the registrar concerning prior academic offenses, and decide on an appropriate course of action. (See 6.4.9 and 6.4.10) If the evidence warrants an accusation of an academic offense, the student shall be invited to meet with the instructor and department chair. The student shall be informed of the charge and given an opportunity to state his or her case. The student shall be informed of the possible penalties that may be imposed or recommended. If the student is not reasonably available or fails to attend the meeting, the instructor, with the approval of the department chair, shall inform the student in person (preferably in the presence of a witness or a signed receipt from the student) or by certified mail (to the local address as contained in the Registrar's Office) of the evidence, charges, and possible penalties.

The instructor and department chair shall decide on an appropriate penalty. If there is disagreement the department chair shall prevail. The instructor and department chair may impose one or more of the following penalties in the event they determine an academic offense has occurred.

  1. Assign a grade of E for the course in which the offense occurred (the minimum penalty).

  2. Recommend to the Dean of their college or to the Dean of the Graduate School, if appropriate, that the student be suspended, dismissed or expelled.

The determination or recommendation of the instructor and department chair shall be made within 7 working days after the accusation is made, unless the student consents in writing to an extension of this time. The determination or recommendation shall be made in writing to their dean or to the Dean of the Graduate School, if appropriate, with copies to the student and the dean of the student's college, if he or she is enrolled in another college. The student shall be notified in person (preferably in the presence of a witness or a signed receipt from the student) or by certified mail (to the local address as contained in the Registrar's Office). If the offense also involves a violation of Part I, Code of Student Conduct, the report shall also be sent to the Dean of Students.

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Examples of Plagiarism

Below are some examples of plagiaristic acts. This list is by no means a comprehensive, but simply contains the most common occurrences and misperceptions about plagiarism. If you have any doubt whatsoever whether your use of materials is plagiaristic, consult with the instructor of your course before you turn in the assignment.

*Example 1: Direct copying from original sources.

*Example 2: Direct copying from original sources, but with footnotes

*Example 3: Rewording a sentence (paraphrasing)

*Example 4: Borrowing organization

*Example 5: Submitting someone else's work

*Example 6: Failing to reference/footnote source material


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This page was last updated December 12, 1998 with visits since then February 1998.

This document and associated figures are copyright 1996-1998 by Rob Toreki. All rights reserved.