Skip to Main Content

Academic Integrity & Avoiding Plagiarism

When might a professor suspect plagiarism?


Professors are very familiar with their subject areas and what has been published in relevant journals, books and on web sites. In addition they are also aware of what has been written by other students in their classes over time.


With this experience the following situations may lead a professor to suspect plagiarism:


  • A particular sentence or paragraph may prompt a closer review of the whole assignment. If a section of an assignment or essay looks “out of place” (that is, the vocabulary, punctuation, structure or style differs from the rest of the submitted work) a professor may suspect plagiarism.
  • An assignment or part of an assignment may remind a professor of something he or she read in the past, either in a journal, newspaper or book, or in a library database, blog or general web site.
  • Professors are aware of web sites that offer papers for sale. Most professors have investigated these sites to determine if their course assignment matches any of the papers available for sale.
  • As students progress through a course professors will note how their writing is changing and improving. Each person has a unique writing style (almost like a fingerprint). A professor will notice if there is an abrupt or unexpected change in writing style.
  • Some professors may use similar assignments from year to year. They will usually quickly recognize an assignment that they have read before.
  • If a submitted work doesn’t quite match what was required of an assignment a professor may suspect that a student did this work for another class and is trying to hand it in twice.
  • Some kinds of information are so specialized that a professor will wonder how you knew such a fact, and assume that you must have read it somewhere. If you are using such information, even if you put it in your own words, you must provide a reference to the source you used. Uncited passages may lead to your assignment being scrutinized.


Purposeful plagiarism is extremely risky, and unintentional plagiarism carries the same consequences. Learn about researching and citing properly, and don't be afraid to ask Mount Library staff for help!


Sources and image credits:

Photo by ID 3844328, used under CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication