Skip to Main Content

Give Credit Where Credit is Due: Home


The practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own. ( "Plagiarism," n.d., para. 1). Plariarism is a form of cheating and a violation of academic integrity, and is taken seriously by reputable universities such as Alliant. Most students are honest and hard-working, but a few choose to take shortcuts in their coursework, and some commit plagiarism inadvertently because they do not understand what it is. This is unfair to those ethical students who would never consider plagiarizing and take steps to avoid it.

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

Give Credit Where Credit is Due: Avoiding Plagiarism and Copyright Infringement

 This instruction guide is designed to inform the Alliant community about plagiarism and copyright infringement and to reduce their occurrence. It will help you know how to use the work of others without presenting it as your own. The best way to avoid plagiarism is careful citing of materials used in your writing, whether verbatim or paraphrased. Quotation marks must enclose any sentence, phrase, or even an unusual word lifted “as is” from a source.

A variety of educational resources are presented below, along with basic concepts that everyone in higher education should know. Sections include: Legal Information, Alliant Resources, APA Resources, Online Documents, Other Plagiarism Resources, and Library Resources.

Legal Information

The principles of Copyright and Fair Use are of particular interest to governments.  Here are some United States federal resources about them:

1.     Copyright 

Copyright is based on the idea that we are all entitled to the fruits of our labors. It is the ownership of intellectual property. Copyright is a legal concept giving the creator of an original work of authorship exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time, after which the work enters the public domain. Generally, it is "the right to copy," but also gives the copyright holder the right to be credited for the work, to determine who may adapt the work to other forms, who may perform the work, who may financially benefit from it, etc. United States Copyright Office

The Copyright Act of 1976 remains the primary basis of copyright law in the United States, although it has been amended several times. Title 17 of the U.S. Code spells out the rights of copyright holders and provides for the protection of intellectual property. To qualify for copyright protection, a work must be original, creative to a minimal degree, and in a fixed or tangible form of expression. It does not cover: works in the public domain; facts and ideas; works that lack originality; and freeware. The Act also outlines the Fair Use Doctrine, which permits the use of copyrighted material for educational purposes.


2.     Fair Use

An important part of copyright law is the Fair Use Doctrine. It was designed to balance the rights of a work’s creator with the work’s potential benefit to society, as well as free speech rights. Fair Use allows the photocopying, downloading and printing of copyrighted works, without securing permission, for these purposes: criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. The following four factors must be considered when determining if the use or duplication of a work is legal:

a.     Purpose and character of the use

OK for educational but not commercial purposes. You cannot make a monetary profit.

b.     Nature of the copyrighted work

A rather vague concept, it refers to a range of protection depending on whether the original work is factual (less protected) or creative/fictional (more protected).

c.      Amount of the portion used in relation to the whole work

OK to duplicate a small amount, specifically:

  • Single chapter from a book (around 15% based on number of pages -- 400 page book = 60 pages)
  • Single article from a journal or journal issue
  • Short story, essay, or poem from an individual work
  • Chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon, or picture per book, journal or newspaper (provided that the individual illustration is not copyrighted)

d.     Effect of use on the potential market or value of the copyrighted work

Duplication should not harm the commercial value of a work, that is, it is not a substitute for actually purchasing a book, music recording, etc.


3.     Educators and researchers

There are further restrictions on the duplication and distribution of copyrighted materials for the classroom and course reserves. Fair Use of these materials must meet the tests of brevity, spontaneity, and cumulative effect. Each copy distributed must include a notice of copyright. It is the responsibility of faculty members to secure permissions. Additional considerations are applied to electronic course reserves. (See Library Policies.)

a.      Brevity

Use is limited to either (a) a complete article, story, or essay, if less than 2500 words; or (b) an excerpt from any prose work of not more than 100 words or 10% of the work, whichever is less, but in any event, a minimum of 500 words.

b.      Spontaneity

The educator’s inspiration and decision to use the work must occur so close to the time it is needed that there is not sufficient opportunity to secure permission.

c.       Cumulative effect

  • Use for one course in the school only. (Interpretations of what defines a “course” are available.)
  • Use is limited, per course/semester, to: one article/story/essay/poem or two excerpts per author; or three from a collected work or journal volume.
  • Maximum allowed is nine instances of duplication, per course/semester.


Prohibitions against duplication

  • Cannot substitute for the purchase of textbooks, compilations, journals, or reprints.
  • Cannot be repeated by the same educator from semester to semester.
  • Students cannot be charged more than the actual cost of duplication.
  • No works intended as “consumable” such as workbooks and standardized test booklets.      


There are some materials it is never OK to duplicate, such as protocols (scoring sheets) and parts from test kits in the Library’s collection. Because psychological and educational tests must be administered by licensed professionals, they are subject to stricter rules. In addition, the use of existing testing instruments for research purposes requires the permission of the author and/or publisher.


  • Despite the above permitted uses, it is wise to exercise caution when using copyrighted work. Binding agreements such as contracts or license agreements may take precedence over Fair Use.
  • The parameters of copyright and Fair Use do evolve over time with new litigation and legislation. Please consult current sources of information if in doubt.

This Instruction Guide was written in August 2008 by former Alliant Los Angeles librarian Stephanie Ballard.            

It was revised and updated by former Alliant San Diego librarian Melinda DeWitt. August 2009 & February 2012

Reviewed and revised by Alliant San Diego librarian Robin Schiff, March 2014 and April 2015.


Copyright Infringement

As a general matter, copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner. (U.S. Copyright Office, Definitions, "What is copyright infringement?" n.d., para. 5).

Because the principles of copyright and fair use are pertinent to a discussion of plagiarism, they are included as well.  For example, it is fair use to photocopy or print out one chapter of a book or one article from a journal issue, but not the entire work. Rules governing the use of copyrighted materials in classrooms and in course reserves are of particular concern to faculty, who are expected to become familiar with and apply them in their course preparation. To comply with fair use guidelines, for example, faculty may supply students with citations and ask them to duplicate the articles themselves, rather than hand out multiple copies in class.