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Research and Documentation

Academic Honesty and Avoiding Plagiarism:
A Self-Guided Tutorial

by Michael Fleming

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Where does the word plagiarism come from?

The word plagiarism has a curious history. It is derived from the Latin plagiarius—literally, a kidnapper who ensnares children or slaves in a plaga (net). The Roman poet Martial (40-102 AD), fiercely protective of his literary creations, was the first to apply the word plagiarius to someone who stole his words with false claims of authorship. This entered the English language as "plagiary," and then, in the seventeenth century, plagiarism, as the theft of words became a more and more widespread problem amidst the burgeoning culture of books and literacy made possible by the printing press. Something can be "stolen," of course, only if it can be owned in the first place—and so naturally the modern concept of plagiarism grew up alongside the development of copyright law and the status attached to authorship and originality.

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