WriteCheck receives hundreds of questions from students around the world about plagiarism, citation, grammar/writing, and many other tricky situations that may occur at school. This new "Ask WriteCheck" column will share some of these questions, provide answers to help the inquisitor, and help other readers who may find themselves in similar situations. In this debut "Ask WriteCheck", a student writes about how to get out of an unintentional plagiarism situation.
I had homework in which I had to present to the class. When I presented my report to my instructor, he said I plagiarized because someone from the other class already presented the same report to him. I didn't know about it. We coincidentally presented almost exactly the same report. Was that plagiarism?
Thank you, Dio
Sounds like a tough situation to be in. The short answer to your question is "yes"--unintentional plagiarism is still plagiarism. However, I would sit down with your instructor and ask him/her to specify which aspects of your homework were considered to be plagiarized. There is a possibility that the nature of the homework assignment promoted students’ use of the same sources. Did all of the students present their homework to the class? If so, who went first, you or the other student? If not, you have a strong case that your work was plagiarized by the other student.
The burden of proof is on your instructor to prove how you plagiarized. If your homework assignment was truly your own original work, you will be familiar with your work. Ask your instructor to orally quiz you on different parts of your homework and you can substantiate how it is your own idea.
Another thing to consider is whether you sent your homework to anyone or completed your assignment on a public computer. There is a chance that they may have copied and taken ideas from your paper with your consent or knowledge.
Always properly document your sources and how you used them. This way you can provide your instructor with several assignment drafts and notes you took from the sources you’ve used. In this way, you can provide a positive case for how you did your work and why you didn’t plagiarize.
Best of luck,