Academic integrity means honesty and responsibility in scholarship. Students and faculty alike must obey rules of honest scholarship, which means that all academic work should result from an individual's own efforts. Intellectual contributions from others must be consistently and responsibly acknowledged. Academic work completed in any other way is fraudulent.
The Office for the Vice Chancellor of Research provides guidelines for academic integrity in teaching, research, service, coursework, research and publication, as well as information on intellectual property. The Graduate College Handbook of Policy and Requirements for Students, Faculty and Staff outlines several resources on academic integrity and intellectual property. The Policy & Procedures on Academic Integrity in Research & Publication from the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs articulates official University policy on academic integrity in research and publication and describes procedures for impartial fact-finding and fair adjudication of allegations of academic misconduct. The Academic Staff Handbook Chapter 5: Research and Teaching provides guidelines from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign faculty senate related to activities involved in teaching, in acquiring and using data in the course of conducting research, in authoring scholarly publications, and in interacting professionally with other individuals on this campus and elsewhere.
Plagiarism is using others' ideas and/or words without clearly acknowledging the source of that information. Students may plagiarize very deliberately (e.g., copying or purchasing papers from an online source), or they may not realize what they are doing, which is sometimes the case when students fail to give credit for authors' ideas that they have paraphrased or summarized in their own words. (In accordance with Article 1, Section 4(d) of the student code, however, the sanctions are the same regardless of a student's awareness of the infraction.) The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research also provides guidelines for University of Illinois students.
Plagiarism is dishonest and prevents instructors from being able to assess students' authentic strengths and weaknesses and thereby help students to improve. It is crippling to your intellectual progress as it interferes with your ability to trust your own thinking, and it constipates future creative thinking. It is also an infraction of academic integrity and could result in expulsion from the university. The University of Illinois student code defines all types of plagiarism: Article 1, Section 4(d) of the student code.
Research-based writing in American institutions is filled with rules that beginning writers may not be aware of or don't know how to follow. Many of these rules have to do with research and proper citation. Sometimes you may not be sure what needs to be cited and what doesn't. It may also seem easy and harmless to copy and paste sections from articles or papers found online to fill an assignment. You should keep in mind, however, that although such behavior may seem harmless, it actually degrades the quality of education that you are receiving and devalues the degree that you are working toward. Plagiarism is also not difficult for a professor to discover through search engines and guides like www.turnitin.com, and may be cause for expulsion from the university.
If you are not confident with your own writing abilities, there are resources available. Ask a Librarian about finding academic sources on your topic of research and/or visit The Writers' Workshop, which provides free writing assistance for University of Illinois students, faculty, and staff from all disciplines and at all stages in the writing process.