"Administrators said that on final-exam questions, some students supplied identical answers, down to, in some cases, typographical errors, indicating that they had written them together or plagiarized them."
Perez-Peña, Richard. “Students Disciplined in Harvard Scandal.” New York Times, 1 Feb. 2013.
From high school to Harvard, students have been caught plagiarizing. The news articles below describe how plagiarism was discovered and what the consequences were.
This excerpt below is from Cañada College's Academic Integrity Policy and the Student Conduct Code.
As members of the college community, students at Cañada are expected to demonstrate integrity in all academic endeavors.
Any act which gains or is intended to gain an unfair academic advantage or which compromises the integrity of the academic standards of the college may be considered an act of academic dishonesty.
Cheating and Plagiarism are violations of the Academic Integrity Policy and the Student Conduct Code and will result in appropriate disciplinary action.
Definition: plagiarism, noun. the act of using another person's words or ideas without giving credit to that person.
Origin: "If schools wish to impress upon their students how serious an offense plagiarism is, they might start with an explanation of the word’s history. Plagiarize (and plagiarism) comes from the Latin plagiarius, "kidnapper."
This word, derived from the Latin plaga (“a net used by hunters to catch game”), extended its meaning in Latin to include a person who stole the words, rather than the children, of another. When plagiarius first entered English in the form plagiary, it kept its original reference to kidnapping, a sense that is now quite obsolete."
-both the definition and quote are from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary
More common than outright plagiarism, students "patch together" thoughts in a recognizable form of writing known as "patchwriting." Instead of synthesizing one's own thoughts and writing original sentences, pieces and phrases of others' work are pieced together. Read more in this Poynter Institute article, "'Patchwriting' is more common than plagiarism, just as dishonest."
Whether students mean to plagiarize or not, the consequences of an author's words or phrasing appearing in your work can mean a failing grade on your paper, a failing grade in a class or expulsion from college.
To avoid any of these, keep careful track of where you find your sources and quotes. Use index cards or a Google doc. It doesn't matter how you keep words and ideas next to the author's name, the title of the work and page numbers.