Plagiarism is when a person uses someone else’s ideas and represents those ideas as his or her own, either on purpose or because the person was too careless to realize what he or she was doing. Ideas include entire essays or reports, paragraphs, sentences, or even phrases. Ideas can also refer to statistics, research, art., etc. It is plagiarism when these ideas, in any of the above forms, are taken from a published source (a book, a magazine, scholarly journals, an encyclopedia, etc.), an electronic source (material discovered on the Internet, for example), another student from any school, or a paper-writing agency that profits from selling pre-written papers and essays.
If a student plagiarizes willingly or accidentally, there can be severe penalties. Usually educational institutions have an explicitly stated policy on how the school will deal with plagiarism cases. Many times, teachers and professors will also have a policy stating how they will handle students who plagiarize. These policies can range from receiving a zero on the paper in question to failing the class for the term, or even being expelled from school for the year or indefinitely. Even if the student is not caught by a school official and penalized on this higher level, the student who plagiarizes loses out on the opportunity to truly learn the material and contribute something worthwhile to the educational community.