The marks you’ll get, when you’ll graduate, how many friends you’ll make… there are very few certainties to university life. And while we would bet our tuition money that you and that boyfriend you’ve had since high school won’t make it past Thanksgiving, there is one other thing you can be absolutely sure of about life at U of T; on the first day of every single course you take, your professor will stand up and lecture you about plagiarism.

And you should listen too, because committing plagiarism is a serious offence. But to charge someone with plagiarism is a pretty big deal too. From the second that your professor approaches you to say that you are suspected of an academic of- fence, he or she is obliged to follow a set of rules laid down in the university’s Code of Behaviour and Academic Conduct. Here’s what you can expect:

Under the Code, your professor must inform you immediately that you have been suspected of an academic offence, and allow you a chance to discuss the is- sue with him or her. Nothing you say at this first meeting can be used against you later on. It’s important to remember that, just like the crooks on TV, you can assert your right to be considered innocent until proven guilty.

If you fail to convince your professor of your innocence, or if you don’t show up for the first discussion, then your professor must report you to your department chair. The chair should then conduct a meeting with you and your prof. Anything you say at this second meeting can be used against you, so you might want to bring a lawyer or other counsel, or at least show up sober.

After the second meeting, if you don’t confess to an offence and the department chair or prof still believes that you’ve committed one, the Provost will be asked to lay a charge against you, at which point you will be brought before the University Tribunal. Sanctions laid against you could be as severe as expulsion from the university for up to five years for a single offence. You are however entitled to an appeal before any punishment can be carried out against you.

As you can see it’s a long and complicated process, you don’t want to go through it unless you absolutely have to. If you did commit plagiarism, it’s much better to admit it as early as possible because the further along the process goes, the harsher your punishment By the way, did you really think you’d get away with it?

// Avoid plagiarism

As a rule of thumb, the best way to avoid getting caught plagiarizing is to not fucking plagiarize in the first place. Here are some more tips to help you avoid being an academic Milli Vanilli:

  • It’s better to over-reference than to skimp. Especially at the undergraduate level, your prof knows that you didn’t invent all your own ideas. You won’t look worse for having relied heavily on sources

  • You must cite: quotations, summaries and paraphrases. Any distinct or authoritative ideas, even those you don’t agree with, must be cited, along with any fact you can’t easily find in a standard reference text.

  • Know which ideas are yours. Keep good notes and cite sources from lectures to make sure that you don’t accidentally poach some one else’s ideas.

  • Have you heard of turnitin. com? Your prof has, and it searches a billion and a half websites for matches to your essay. If you copied something from the web, they will find it.