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The Council of Writing Program Administrators gives the following definition:
"In an instructional setting, plagiarism occurs when a writer deliberately uses someone else’s language, ideas, or other original (not common-knowledge) material without acknowledging its source" (WPA, 2009).
Why Should I Care?
You give credibility to your own work when you let others know where you got your work.
It helps others learn more (taking a "deep dive") about a particular aspect of your topic.
You are spreading the word about other people's hard work.
It's the ethical thing to do.
Use your own ideas. It is your project and therefore your ideas should be the focus.
Use the ideas of others sparingly and only to support or reinforce your own argument.
When taking notes, include complete citation information for each item you use.
Use quotation marks when directly stating another person's words.
A good strategy is to take 30 minutes and write a short draft of your paper without using any notes. It will help you think through what you want to say and help to prevent you from becoming to dependent on your sources.