Why do I need to know about plagiarism?
One of the contradictions of academic writing is that, while you are expected to research and refer to experts and authorities, you are also expected to produce original work. This is to ensure that you are very clear about your own ideas and about how the works of other scholars have influenced your understanding.
It is important to recognise that all scholarship involves understanding, researching and building on existing research to some degree. Undergraduates, for instance, often base their assignments on selecting, ordering, summarising and interpreting what others have said to support their own academic arguments. Therefore, it is important to learn how to reference well, that is, how to consciously and clearly acknowledge the sources you have used in your work so that your own contribution can be clearly identified and appreciated.
As part of an academic community, you are expected to abide by its ethical practices. It is partly this tradition of acknowledgement of sources, in the form of ‘in-text’ citation or footnotes, that separates academic writing from other forms of knowledge: it is part of the strength of academic research.