Ultimate Plagiarism Guide for College Students (24 Quick Q&As)

This is the most comprehensive plagiarism guide for college students who are interested in learning about everything related to plagiarism in college.

In this new guide, you’ll learn everything ranging from what plagiarism is to how to avoid plagiarism as a college student.

(Including lots of answered questions that have never been shared on any website before.)

Let’s dive right in:

1. What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism (also be referred to as infringement of copyright) is a term that is used to denote when a person presents another person’s words, sounds, images, ideas, or language; whether in print or electronic form, as his/her own without properly acknowledging the real owner of this intellectual property.

2. What is Self-plagiarism?

Self-plagiarism is when a student reuses or resubmits an old research paper, college essay, or college paper that has been previously submitted by him/her as a new research paper, college essay, or college paper in another assignment without properly referencing this old, already submitted paper where the idea, word, sound, image, or language was drawn from.

3. What is Considered Plagiarism in College?

Plagiarism in college usually occurs when a student takes full credit for another person’s work either by simply copying and pasting this person’s work intentionally or unintentionally on a college essay or research paper or by simply buying a paper entirely written by someone else and using this bought paper as their own research or college paper.

4. What is The Punishment For Plagiarism in College?

There are different penal codes put in place for plagiarism policy defaulters in college.

In college, violation of the plagiarism policy can result in an automatic reduction of your grades, failing you with an F in that specific assignment or course, college sanctions for you, as well as a possibility of being temporarily suspended or completely expelled from your college based on the gravity of the offense.

5. Why is Plagiarism An Important Issue in College?

Plagiarism is an important issue in college because of the rising number of plagiarism defaulters. 

Colleges considered it as a breach of academic integrity by offenders who aim to belittle the institution’s scholarly standards that have been put in place, as well as undervalue the degree that is awarded to other students who strive and work hard to earn their degrees fairly and squarely. 

6. How Do Students Commit Plagiarism?

According to Turnitin, there are a couple of ways by which a student can commit plagiarism. Like:

  • Copying and pasting a complete article without any change
  • Finding and replacing some words within a paper
  • Patching together different materials to form a single article
  • Self-plagiarising your own work
  • A hybrid combination of cited and uncited sources
  • A mashup of different disjointed papers to create a paper that lacks flow
  • Using false citations that do not exist or correlate with the article
  • Using citations without inputting your own original idea

7. How Serious is Plagiarism in College?

Plagiarism is a very serious offense in college thanks to the ever-increasing amount of students who engage in the act whether intentionally or not.

There have also been different rules put in place, with consequences ranging from a mild reprimand to complete student expulsion just to show the level of seriousness at which colleges and institutions now place on plagiarism amongst students in college.

8. How Can College Students Avoid Plagiarism?

As a college student who wishes to avoid plagiarism in your college paper, there are a couple of ways by which you can do this.

To avoid plagiarism as a college student:

  • Understand clearly what plagiarism really means for students in your institution
  • Properly cite any academic article or sources you use in your college essay or research paper
  • Keep uncited information sources for your college paper or assignment securely in a folder for future purpose
  • Paraphrase or reword your writing in an original way that is completely different from your research source
  • Uniquely present your idea and add new ideas as well
  • Quote sources that are written in your college paper or texts which aren’t yours
  • Use a plagiarism checker to check for plagiarism after completing your college essay or research paper

9. What Are The Consequences For Plagiarism?

In college, there are serious consequences for plagiarizing another person’s work as your own without properly citing or giving due respect to the original owner of the plagiarized material.

According to Bowdin university, the consequences vary between:

  • Failure on the plagiarized assignment
  • Grade reduction in the specific course
  • Failure on the specific course
  • Suspension of the offender
  • Complete expulsion and removal of the offender from the student database

10. Which Tool Can You Use To Check For Plagiarism?

As a college student, there are numerous free and paid online tools to help you check for plagiarism in your research paper, college paper, college essay, or assignment.

Some of these tools include:

1. Grammarly (Score: 5/5)

Best online plagiarism checker for all students

Grammarly is an online writing tool that helps to detect grammar and punctuation errors, plagiarism, writing style, and spelling checks in a college student’s essay or research paper.


  • Overall writing function for extensive purposes
  • Seamless performance
  • Easy to use


  • Doesn’t ignore spelling errors in cases of business words or nouns
  • Not 100% accurate in grammar correction

Click here to experience Grammarly!

2. Copyleaks (Score: 5/5)

Best proofreading tool for students

Copyleaks is an online plagiarism checker with an extensive database of academic resources which are most times not found on other plagiarism tools.


  • Parses PDF files easily
  • Easy to use
  • Intuitive interface
  • Good customer service


  • Saves scanned documents to its database
  • Plagiarism point checkers are expensive to purchase

3. Turnitin (Score: 4/5)

Best for professors and tutors

Turnitin is an online plagiarism tool that is used to check for originality of any text inputted into its broad database.


  • Useful for college professors
  • Supports a wide variety of files
  • Fantastic, feature-rich tools


  • Lacks internet access for grading college paper
  • Takes a longer period of time to generate similarity report

4. Unicheck (Score: 4/5)

Best plagiarism check for students and professionals

Unicheck is an online tool that scans documents and text against a wide array of other texts on the internet and files in its own database.


  • Userfriendly interface
  • Thorough scanning of texts
  • Good customer service


  • Only copy-paste option available

11. What Are Some Free Plagiarism Checkers For College Students?

Whether you want to check your research paper, college paper, college essay, or college assignment for plagiarism, there are different free online plagiarism tools for you to use as a college student.

Some of these free plagiarism checking tools include:

12. How Do Professors Detect Plagiarism?

College professors have years of experience in the subject they lecture and have pored over thousands of hours worth of information in that specific course.

If a student submits a plagiarized work, most college professors can detect it by simply reading through the paper or assignment. 

For college assignments submitted online, the college’s canvas turn-it-in system already has a built-in text matcher that simply scans through the student’s paper or essay for plagiarism and returns the plagiarism score to the professors if it is a plagiarized work.

13. Can Professors Detect Plagiarism on Hard Copy?

Yes, college professors can detect plagiarism on a student’s college paper or research paper in hard copy.

All the professor has to do is read through the introduction, conclusion, and the body of the college essay or assignment, and if he finds that it sounds like something he has read before, the professor can simply search for a sentence from this paper on Google by including quotation marks in order to check if there’s an article with the exact sentence match on the internet.

14. How Serious is Self-plagiarism?

While self-plagiarism isn’t as serious as other forms of plagiarism which all tend to focus on you using someone else’s work, it still is a serious matter that has consequences, if the school’s policy isn’t adhered to.

At the University of Oklahoma, if a student is caught self-plagiarizing, such student can be awarded a zero on the assignment, fail the class exam, and/or be forced to take a remedial class on academic integrity.

15. Can You Plagiarize Yourself in College?

Yes, you can plagiarize yourself in college.

This process of plagiarizing yourself in college is what is known as self-plagiarism, and even though it isn’t as severe as other types of plagiarism, it still has its consequences if your professors’ guidelines aren’t adhered to.

16. Do Professors Check For Self-plagiarism?

Yes, professors do check for self-plagiarism.

For assignments or college essays submitted online, most colleges have an online plagiarism detection software for professors like Turnitin that simply checks for any and every form of plagiarism, including self-plagiarism of a submitted assignment or college essay.

It is therefore advisable to speak with your college professor if you do have an assignment or college paper that is similar to the current assignment given by your professor, and to properly cite this old material to avoid being penalized for self-plagiarism.

17. Do Professors Always Check For Plagiarism?

Yes, they do. These days, professors spend time checking for plagiarism while grading a student’s research paper, college paper, college essay, or assignment.

Most college professors already understand how to use online plagiarism tools like Turnitin which makes checking for plagiarism easier, and as such, checking for plagiarism with the aid of these online plagiarism-checking tools makes it easier for them to always check for plagiarism.

18. What Do You Do When Your Professor Accuses You of Plagiarism?

If you believe you have been wrongly accused of plagiarism by your college professor, there are a couple of steps you can take to appeal this claim.

Some of the steps to take to appeal your professor’s plagiarism claim include:

  • Discussing the issue with your professor and showing the citations of sources you used
  • Asking your professor for proof of plagiarism
  • Asking for a review of your college paper by another professor
  • Appealing to the faculty dean about the issue
  • Having a higher authority get involved in the matter
  • Follow the formal appeal process of your university

19. How Much Plagiarism is Allowed in College?

In college, copying someone else’s words without giving credit is never allowed, implying that 0% plagiarism isn’t allowed.

However, in cases of similarity reports like in mathematics, computer science, biology, etc., it is impossible not to use calculations, general formulas, or statements and terminologies, hence between a 5%-15% plagiarism score is allowed by some professors.

20. Is It Possible To Accidentally Plagiarize?

Yes, it is possible to accidentally plagiarize your college essay or research paper. This form of plagiarism is called accidental plagiarism.

Accidental plagiarism usually happens as a result of forgetfully not citing a source you used, or due to poor paraphrasing most times.

21. What Happens If You Accidentally Plagiarize?

If you have no prior history of plagiarization, and you unintentionally or accidentally plagiarize your college essay, college paper, assignment, or research paper, your professor would most likely lower your grade in that specific paper or have you failed in the course.

You will also be expected to attend a plagiarism workshop so you can learn more about plagiarism and how to prevent it in the future.

22. How Can You Save Yourself From Plagiarism?

According to scribbr plagiarism checker, there are four tips to save college students from plagiarism in their college essays, assignments, or research paper.

These tips include:

  • Noting down the full details of the sources you used while writing
  • Quoting sources you used in your paper properly
  • Including proper citations of the sources you used
  • Confirming with an online plagiarism checker tool whether or not your paper has any plagiarized source

23. Can Plagiarism Checkers Detect Essays Bought Online?

Yes, online plagiarism tools like Turnitin have successfully devised a way to check and detect essays bought from third-party sources now.

Turnitin has developed a new software, the Turnitin Authorship Attribution software that compares students writing style and patterns on their submitted college paper, research paper, or assignments with their old assignments or prior submitted work. The software then analyses the document and offers a score on the probability of contract cheating by the student.

24. Are Online Plagiarism Checkers Accurate?

No, online plagiarism checkers are not 100% accurate in detecting plagiarism in students’ work, but they however have helped to breach the ever-growing trend of plagiarism across universities around the world.