Plagiarism is taking someone else’s writing, ideas, or research and passing it off as your own. As you might guess, it is a tad frowned upon. In fact, we’re frowning right now just thinking about it. Major sad face.
So if you find an awesome idea on the Internet or in a book or magazine that you think would be great in your paper, you must remember to state in your paper that you got it from another source. All the original writer wants is a little shout-out. Not too much to ask.
Usually, your teacher will tell you what formatting you should use to cite your sources. But even if you get confused about the exact formatting, make sure that it’s clear to your readers which information was taken from a source. Even if you have to write something as vague and unofficial as “The New England Journal of Medicine was here.” You might get a few points docked for incorrect formatting, but at least you won’t be punished for cheating. And trust us—that paddle does not feel good on your backside.
Check out Shmoop’s take on plagiarism.