The Mass Media Department considers plagiarism a serious offense. This page will help you learn more about the definitions, types and ways to avoid plagiarism. Before you proceed, REMEMBER that you are responsible for your actions whether you have knowingly or unknowingly “borrowed” somebody’s work.

Defining Plagiarism

The Academic Impropriety Policy of Washburn University covers plagiarism under a broader category labeled “Academic Dishonesties.” You can find the full text here.

Article VIII, Section 2, describes academic dishonesties in the following way:

Academic Dishonesties
An academic dishonesty is any form of academic impropriety whose commission by a student involves a dishonest motive or intent. The following actions are examples of academic dishonesty:
a. Cheating on examinations, tests, or quizzes.
b. Copying from another student's examination, test, or quiz.
c. Using unauthorized materials during an examination, test, or quiz.
d. Unauthorized collaboration with another person during an examination, test, or quiz.
e. Knowingly obtaining, using, buying, selling, transporting, or soliciting in whole or in part the contents of, or information about, an unreleased examination, test, or quiz.
f. Bribing another person to obtain a copy of, or information about, an unreleased examination, test, or quiz.
g. Bribing or allowing another person to substitute for oneself to take an examination, test, or quiz.
h. Plagiarism, which shall mean the appropriation of another person's work, with or without that person's consent, and the unacknowledged incorporation of that work into one's own work offered for credit.
i. Collusion, which shall mean the unauthorized collaboration with any other person in preparing work offered for credit.
This list of examples is not meant to be all-inclusive, but is presented for guidance in defining acts of academic dishonesty which, if they are found to have occurred, require academic action by the faculty in whose course they occurred.


If you want to learn more about the different types of plagiarism, go to this section of the web site. The bottom line is: when you research and write your papers, always give credit to the sources of your information. Changing the wording of a sentence (or paraphrasing) can still constitute plagiarism, especially if you fail to provide proper in-text citations or fail to list your source in the bibliography. Never try to copy and paste a sentence from a web site without putting the text in quotation marks and providing proper in-text citation.

Confused about citations? There are different citation styles. Mabee Library has handots on APA, MLA, Chicago and Turabian style. Ask your instructor for help if you are unsure about how to cite something.

See an example of academic plagiarism involving WU professor David Pownell.

Plagiarism in Mass Media

Students at the Mass Media Department are not only expected to behave in accordance with the University Academic Dishonesty policies, but should also be familiar with what constitutes dishonest behavior in mass media.

In mass media, dishonest behavior might constitute the following:

a. Fabricating source(s) for your story. Remember Janet Cooke? Read about this famous case on the PBS web site.

b. Fabricating information for your story in video or in print. In another infamous case, a reporter for the New Republic, Stephen Glass, fabricated material for 27 stories. Learn more about Glass in this CBS interview with him.

c. Manufacturing a quote for your story. Jayson Blair, a New York Times reporter, not only fabricated quotations and scenes, he also plagiarized information from other newspapers. Read this NYT article about Blair.

d. Augmenting a quote.

e. Using information from other sources (stories, columns, wire services) without revealing its origin.

f. Claiming to have created original media, video, sound files, digital images, or any mediated work that was actually created by or belongs to someone else .

Jayson Blair
Journalist for the New York Times who plagiarized several of his articles.

How to Avoid Plagiarism

Knowledge is power. Ignorance is a poor excuse. If you have a question about using information, citing sources or paraphrasing, ask your instructor, talk to your adviser, solicit the help of a librarian. You always have a choice NOT to plagiarize.

You can download a great handout with tips from


The penalties for plagiarism will be severe. The following paragraph is from the Faculty Handbook.

The following are examples of academic actions intended either to prevent the continuation of a impropriety or to offset the advantage gained through an impropriety:

1. Verbal warning to the student that he or she is acting improperly.

2. Instructing the student to move to another seat or desk.

3. Collecting or voiding the student's examination, test or quiz, with or without the opportunity for a make-up. If a make-up is granted, it may include a grade reduction to offset the advantage the student gains from having additional time to study for the examination.

4. Adjusting the grade in an examination to offset the advantage gained by the student by continuing to work on the examination after the examination period has ended.

5. Adjusting the grade in an assignment to offset the advantage gained by the student by submitting the assignment late.

6. Giving a failing grade to, or granting no credit for, the work submitted.

7. Giving the student an F for the course.

Plagiarism Statement

Here are the steps.

  1. Read the above information.
  2. Download the handout with tips on how to avoid plagiarism from
  3. If you have additional questions, do not hesitate to ASK your instructor or adviser.
  4. Print out the Plagiarism statement. You can download the PDF here.
  5. Read it, sign it and return it to your instructor.

Note: Some instructors may just ask you to read this page.

Using Wikipedia as a source

Wikipedia is a “six-year old global online encyclopedia in 250 languages that can be added or edited by anyone…Wikipedia’s goal is to make the sum of human knowledge available to everyone on the planet at no cost.” (read entire NYT article on Wikipedia from July 1, 2007).

Interestingly, the morforu wiki is based on the same revolutionary wiki (“quick” in Hawaiian) technology. As easy as it might seem to use information from Wikipedia, beware of the hidden dangers. Some of the information might be incorrect or biased, and some topics might become targets of deliberate vandalism. In addition, how would you feel about this information if you knew that some of the most prolific Wikipedia contributors are high-school and college students (see NYT, July 1, 2007)?

Read this NYT article on why the History Department at Middlebury College has banned Wikipedia as a research source.

In general, the consensus is to avoid using Wikipedia as an academic source. It might be quick and easy, but certainly is not a reliable academic tool. Besides, why would you use Wikipedia (or any other encyclopedia) when you have access to so many, and just as free, online resources at Mabee Library?

Additional Resources is web site exclusively dedicated to providing definitions, tips and guidelines for avoiding plagiarism.

Mindy McAdams’ web site on avoiding plagiarism.

More about dishonesty in mass media from PBS.

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