What is plagiarism?
Plagiarism is using another's words or ideas without acknowledging that they are not yours. Plagiarism can occur at any time, regardless of intent. "I didn't mean to do it" or "It was an accident" is not an acceptable excuse for plagiarism. Intent cannot be proved. The best way to make sure you don't plagiarize is to learn how to attribute your work appropriately.
Why should I care about plagiarism?
The FPU Handbook makes academic integrity a priority at the university, including specifically discouraging plagiarism. You can view the description of Academic Integrity here in the Academic Policies section of the handbook. Consequences of violating the university's policies of Academic Integrity can range from minor to severe. Really, the easiest thing to do is to learn how to cite your work early on so you don't have to worry.
Besides the “it’s the rule” argument, consider how you might feel if someone passed your work off as their own. You might think you don’t care so much while you’re in university but consider how you’d feel out in the “real world” if someone took work you did to your boss and claimed it was their own. You’d probably be pretty angry. You worked really hard on it, after all. It probably represents a lot of time, energy, and maybe even money to you (this is also probably true of your work during university as well).
Policies against plagiarism are put in place to honor, value, and protect the work that an individual does.
So how do I avoid plagiarizing?
Always cite your resources!
What requires a citation:
Just not quite sure if it's plagiarism or not?
Ask your teacher, FPU's Academic Support Center, or a librarian. When in doubt, always cite it! It's better to be citing than sorry.
The Academic Support Center has created a really excellent document defining plagiarism and how to avoid it.
Simultaneously brilliant and annoying, this video is a crash course in copyright and fair use.
The Purdue OWL keeps their information on citation styles up-to-date and is a great open access resource.