Plagiarism 101

Plagiarism is an issue that is often widely thought of as only including the written word. However, visual plagiarism, especially in an art and design setting, can be common as well. It’s easy to confuse these practices with the “borrowing” or manipulation of images, and not even realize that it’s happening. Often students are not entirely aware that what they are doing is considered plagiarism. There are so many different things that can get marked as plagiarized. For example:

– The material is copied from another source, pure and simple. No citations or footnotes.
– The material is slightly paraphrased from another source, but not well. No citations or footnotes.
– The material is well paraphrased, but there are no citations or footnotes.
– A design was clearly copied from a computer screen with no acknowledgment of the source.
– Copying sketches, paintings, photos, and even sculptures without consent or credit.
– The same paper was turned in for two different classes (self-plagiarism).

These are just a few of the examples of plagiarism, although there are many more.

What happens if a school picks up on plagiarizing? Each institution is different, although usually it can be determined if it is a case of ignorance initially. At RMCAD, those students are required to make an appointment with the Student Learning Center (SLC) to discuss the incident after it happens. Depending on the severity of the issue, a warning may be issued from the Chair of their program or the Dean of Students. In severe cases, the student may experience further disciplinary action such as expulsion, as plagiarism is an ethical issue that has to be addressed.

Plagiarizing never benefits anyone. As a student, you could lose out on learning opportunities and start to create mistrust. How can you avoid it?

The first thing to do is to ask for help. At RMCAD, students should make an appointment with the SLC right away. If you are uncomfortable with writing or drawing, set up recurring appointments with those that can help. Get another eye on your work before you turn it in. Time management can play a huge factor. If you plan ahead, you can avoid the trap of wanting to use material you have turned in for another class, or the materials of someone else.

Most libraries have a lot of information and offer assistance on research and citation. The SLC is also here to help. If there is ever any question of whether your writing or your art and designs could be “borrowed” or plagiarized, please reach out to the appropriate personnel to clarify. Don’t forget to cite your sources!

Get more support with writing and foundations at RMCAD’s Student Learning Center (SLC). The SLC welcomes students from all programs both on-campus and online who strive to do better in the classroom while perfecting their craft. Self-schedule an appointment with the SLC here or email the SLC at This article was written by Martha Neth, head of the Learning Commons at RMCAD.


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