Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s work as if it were your own. It can occur intentionally or unintentionally. Intentional plagiarism is cheating; it’s when you deliberately copy another person’s words or ideas without acknowledgment. Examples of this include copying all or any portion of an encyclopedia entry or published essay, downloading a paper off the internet, and handing in a paper from a fraternity’s files. Keep in mind that your instructors read widely, and have a lot of experience reading student work. Believe us when we tell you that words that are not your own are easy to spot. The consequences for plagiarizing are severe (see below).

Unintentional plagiarism is by far the most common form, and usually involves improper citation of your reference sources. The best way to avoid this is to learn how to cite your sources correctly. In history classes, you will often find yourself working with the words and ideas of others. Careful note-taking and a clear understanding of the rules for quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing sources, according to a recognized manual of style, will help prevent accidental plagiarism. Proper citation tells your instructors where you got your information, and demonstrates to them that you are not trying to cheat.

If you are unsure about which citation form to use, check with your instructor and then visit our Style and Citation webpage at

The Official College of Liberal Arts Policy on Plagiarism

The full text of this policy can be found at

"Plagiarism and cheating may result in grade reduction and/or other serious penalties. Plagiarism and cheating include, but may not be limited to:

  • presentation of the ideas of others without credit to the source;
  • use of direct quotations without quotation marks and without credit to the source;
  • paraphrasing without credit to the source;
  • participation in a group project which presents plagiarized materials;
  • failure to provide adequate citations for material obtained through electronic research;
  • downloading and submitting work from electronic databases without citation;
  • submitting material created/written by someone else as one's own, including purchased 
         term/research papers;
  • copying from someone else's exam, homework, or laboratory work;
  • allowing someone to copy or submit one's work as his/her own;
  • accepting credit for a group project without doing one's share;
  • submitting the same paper in more than one course without the knowledge and approval
         of the instructors involved;
  • using notes or other materials during a test or exam without authorization;
  • not following the guidelines specified by the instructor for a "take home" test or exam.

Students unclear about the proper use and citation of sources, or the details and guidelines for any assignment, should discuss their questions with the instructor."

The Consequences

"An instructor who suspects a student of plagiarism or cheating must inform the student—in writing—as soon as possible after the incident has been observed or discovered. If the instructor comes to the conclusion that the student has plagiarized or cheated, he or she, in consultation with the departmental executive officer (DEO), may decide to reduce the student's grade in the course, even to assign an F. The DEO sends a written report of the case to the associate dean for academic programs; a copy is sent to the student.

The associate dean for academic programs may uphold, as the offense may warrant, the following or other penalties: disciplinary warning until graduation, suspension from the college for a calendar year or longer, or recommendation of expulsion from the University by the president."

The official University of Iowa policy is basically identical; it’s available through the Division of Student Life and the Dean of Students at .