International Students in the U.S – Beware of Academic Plagiarism

Are you an International Student in the U.S? Beware of Academic Plagiarism

International students are joining U.S. Universities and colleges at rates higher than ever before. Many come from countries where ‘plagiarism’ and ‘intellectual property rights’ are nascent concepts. Unfortunately, international students who lack an understanding of academic plagiarism can soon find themselves in serious trouble with the college authorities in the U.S.

What is Academic Plagiarism?

In simple language, you are guilty of academic plagiarism if you reference a body of work that has been published elsewhere, but fail to give due credit in your writing.

The simplest form of plagiarism is to copy someone else’s work and present it as your own. However, plagiarism is not restricted to copying text, word-for-word. Even if you rephrase a thought or an idea that you have read somewhere, the acceptable standard of academic writing at U.S. universities requires that you provide a proper citation i.e. you state the source of the original content/idea.

U.S. universities and colleges will often touch upon the topic of plagiarism as part of the orientation program for international students. Some higher educational institutions in the U.S. even stipulate that students verify the content using plagiarism-check websites like Turnitin before submitting academic papers.

Unknowingly or Knowingly – Why Some Students Tend to Indulge in Plagiarism 

There are underlying cultural differences that can lead to international students submitting ‘copy and paste’ assignments. In some Asian countries, using existing content is not viewed as a bad thing; you are simply saying what the master in the field has already has said. In China, which has a strong emphasis on ‘community’ rather than ‘individual ownership,’ it is common practice to use existing information without crediting the source.

For some international students, the thought of researching topics, writing essays, citing sources, and presenting original ideas, is completely alien. They have spent years, in their home country, attending lecture style classes during which voicing an opinion was regarded as disrespectful towards the teacher. Once they start studying in the U.S., these students may find themselves struggling in an education environment that not only encourages originality and free-thinking but demands it.

The rules of academic plagiarism can be confusing to international students unfamiliar with the American higher education system. What makes the situation trickier is that sometimes, what is accepted as ‘original content’ varies the across the subjects you are studying, or even between two professors teaching the same subject.

Difficulty in submitting written assignments in college-level American English, and the sheer desire to prove themselves, may also tempt some international students to knowingly indulge in plagiarism.

Consequences of Academic Plagiarism

An international student found guilty of plagiarism cannot cite lack of familiarity with the rules of plagiarism as a line of defense. Academic plagiarism, once identified at a U.S. University, is viewed as an unacceptable breach of the ethics of academic learning.

Depending on the level of offense, the punishments for academic plagiarism at U.S. Universities and colleges can include –

  • Disciplinary warning
  • Failing grade on the assignment
  • Failing grade in the course
  • Temporary suspension
  • Permanent expulsion.

For an international student, being kicked out of the university would likely lead to being home having wasted several years of time and effort. To be on the safe side, it’s always recommended that you cite all the sources referenced for any written assignment submitted at your U.S. university. In addition, it’s advisable that (when you join the U.S. university) you take a writing class specifically designed to help students from other countries.

If you too intend to study in the U.S, you need a trusted education advisor who can prepare you for life as an international student. The approach to academic plagiarism is just one of the many differences that students from China studying in U.S., grapple with.

The Eagle Pathways team has successfully placed Chinese students in highly- rated and diverse U.S. universities and colleges. Let’s connect today to know how we can help you make that transition as well.




Eagle Pathways® creates life changing experiences for families and their students, and is opening opportunities at schools across America to youth in emerging economies. We deliver our innovative tech-enabled program to help our international students adjust academically and culturally. With our enriching, empowering and inclusive support, our clients thrive and go onto do great things as students and as globally-minded citizens.


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