Plagiarism is using the words or ideas of someone else without crediting your source. Failing to acknowledge the source implies that the words or ideas are your creation.
It's not wrong to incorporate the ideas of others into your writing. In fact, it's expected in scholarly writing. A research paper should be a combination of your ideas and the previous research of other scholars. As Isaac Newton once said, you are "standing upon the shoulders of giants" when you build upon another scholar’s words, facts, and ideas. But, this borrowed material must not be presented as your own creation. If you do not give credit to the original authors, you are committing plagiarism... and that's a serious crime.
Plagiarism can result in dismissal from college or other disciplinary actions.
If it's not your idea, you must cite it unless it's considered common knowledge. Common citation styles used in higher education include APA, Chicago, and MLA. Your instructor will let you know which style is preferred for your college or university coursework.
It's plagiarism when... you copy text, audio, video, graphics or other images without giving credit to the original artist or author.
It's plagiarism when... you use a paper written by someone else and try to pass it off as your own.
It's plagiarism when... you copy and paste passages from a website, book, or article and insert them into your paper without including quotation marks and a citation.
It's plagiarism when... you misrepresent someone else's work, or worse, falsify data so it matches the results you need for a paper.
When you use direct quotes in your writing, you are using someone else's words or phases exactly as they were originally written.
But, when you paraphrase, you reword what was written by someone else while still maintaining the original author's ideas.
You must cite your sources for both.
Need some citation tips? The APA Style website is a good place to start.